It's been three months since the deadly Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh killed over 1,100 workers, and the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord--an agreement singed onto by 70 brands to take responsibility for the safety of factories they use in Bangladesh--is finally being put into effect.
According to the New York Times, all 70 brands signed on have agreed to inspect their Bangladeshi factories within nine months. During this time, factory employees will be notified of their right to refuse to enter buildings not up to code and will be paid for time that any factory is closed. The list of nearly 1000 factories and the accompanying safety reports will be made public.
Leading European retailers, including Inditex and H&M, have long been signed onto the International Bangladesh Safety Accord. That plan is a binding five-year contract which requires the individual companies to pay for safety improvements.
The major US retailers who have rejected the Bangladesh Safety Accord in favor of developing their own action plans--which include WalMart and Gap--are said to be presenting their own plan in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the United States, European Union, and Bangladeshi governments are set to meet with the International Labor Organization in Geneva today with the goal of improving working conditions in Bangladesh, WWD is reporting.
Current American and European sanctions do not cover the garment industry, even though Europe is the largest importer of Bangladeshi garments. Today's meeting with the ILO aims to place more external pressure on the government of Bangladesh to improve safety conditions.
The summit will take into consideration current US and EU tax concessions, which according to a Reuters report on Business of Fashion, "have helped to turn Bangladesh’s garment exports into a $19 billion a year industry, with 60 percent of clothes going to Europe."
This is the latest step from the US government towards action in Bangladesh. In June, Congress proposed legislation requiring all licensed and branded military apparel to be made in compliance with the Bangladesh Safety Accord, and President Obama suspended Generalized System of Preferences benefits to Bangladesh. And even though these cuts affect an estimated $34.7 million in Bangladeshi imports, clothing is not eligible for US duty cuts, so the move was mostly symbolic.