Matalan and River Island sign the Bangladesh Accord…tell the rest of the High Street to join them
We have had a great response to the TUC’s campaign to get UK high street brands to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The Accord is an agreement developed by two global union federations, IndustriALL and UNI-global, which commits companies to fund independent safety inspections in their factories which must involve workers. This means unsafe conditions in their factories can be reported and fixed to stop tragedies like the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh which killed almost 1200 people.
In the last week, two of the brands we were targeting have signed: River Island and Matalan. Many brands source from the same factories so it is important as many as possible commit to the same standards of safety and worker engagement through the Accord. In an incredible effort, IndustriALL have collected – and just published – details for nearly 1600 clothing factories in Bangladesh that will be covered by the Accord. This information will allow the trade unions, retailers and government representatives to prioritise where there are major building safety issues that need addressing.
We need to keep up the pressure, though, because the situation for workers in Bangladesh is still one where unsafe conditions are common. Last week’s Panorama revealed that workers making clothes for Lidl were locked in the factory overnight as they were forced to work a 19 hour shift.
Low pay also means Bangladeshi workers find it hard to survive. This week saw strikes by 50,000 Bangladeshi workers, many of whom were women garment workers, calling for an end to ‘inhuman’ wages , something the TUC revealed would cost brands very little to provide (roughly 2p per t-shirt). The anti-sweatshop campaign group Labour Behind the Label point out that even the Bangladeshi Ministry of Commerce estimate currently one in four of Bangladesh’s garment factories don’t even comply with mandatory standards on pay, working hours and conditions. According to local unions and labour-rights organisations the levels of non compliance are much higher.
As the six month anniversary of Rana Plaza approaches, we need everyone to email and tweet UK brands to sign the Accord and show respect for the rights and dignity of the workers in their supply chains.