CFDA Urges Designers to Take Responsibility for Factory Worker Safety

While we're still waiting for major retailers like Gap, Wal-Mart and Macy's to sign the Bangladesh safety accord, recent factory tragedies in Cambodia have driven the point home that safety reform has to happen on a broader level. And it has to happen now.
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Hayley Phelan
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While we're still waiting for major retailers like Gap, Wal-Mart and Macy's to sign the Bangladesh safety accord, recent factory tragedies in Cambodia have driven the point home that safety reform has to happen on a broader level. And it has to happen now.
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While we're still waiting for major retailers like Gap, Wal-Mart and Macy's to sign the Bangladesh safety accord, recent factory tragedies in Cambodia have driven the point home that safety reform has to happen on a broader level. And it has to happen now.

The CFDA released a statement yesterday urging retailers to take responsibility for the working conditions in the factories they use, WWD is reporting.

“What happened in Bangladesh is a tragedy and a harsh reminder that it is our obligation as designers to make sure our factories are a safe place to work and that the workers are respected," CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg said in an email sent to the organization's membership yesterday. The email also contained a link to the designer's Supplier Code of Conduct rules and Supplier Certification Document.

One of the hurdles retailers face is that their factories and suppliers are located halfway around the world. And because of illegal subcontracting some retailers don't even know exactly where their goods are produced, let alone in what conditions. Which is why von Furstenberg is advocating that designer's take a more hands-on approach to production.

"I also encourage you to have your production team visit directly with your supplier partners to see firsthand the working conditions and treatment of workers," von Furstenberg wrote. "There are third-party vendors who can audit and inspect for you. It is important to know who you work with and to ensure safety and fairness in the workplace."

The statement comes after a series of deadly Bangladesh factory incidents, one of which killed close to 1,200 people, and, more recently, a handful of factory accidents in Cambodia. Last week, a partial factory collapse in Cambodia killed two people and injured 11. Wing Star Shoes, the company which ran the factory, produces shoes for Asics. A few days later a mass fainting occurred at the same factory when workers who survived the incident were told to go back to work.

This week, a concrete platform collapsed into a pond at another factory, run by New Star Shoes (owned by the same entity as Wing Star Shoes), sending 20 workers to the hospital.

New Star Shoes is no stranger to controversy: The company has been accused of using prison and child labor. Two deaths have occurred in their factories in the last two years.

Let's hope the tragedies in Bangladesh will help teach retailers to make worker safety a priority on a global level.