TORONTO Dec 18 A group that includes Canada's
largest unions is urging Hudson's Bay Co, Canadian Tire
Corp and other Canadian-based retail companies to sign
a European-led initiative to improve safety for garment workers
Proponents of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in
Bangladesh say it is stronger than the U.S.-led Alliance for
Bangladesh Worker Safety initiative, which many Canadian-based
retailers have already endorsed.
The European initiative requires clearly independent
inspections of work sites, binding arbitration enforceable in
court in case of a dispute, and full disclosure of all
suppliers, inspection reports and detailed quarterly reports.
More than 125 companies, many based in Europe, have already
signed the accord.
The group - comprised of Unifor, Canadian Union of Public
Employees and 23 other organizations - say the U.S.-led
initiative is less transparent than the European accord and also
excludes representation or active involvement from factory
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the U.S.-led Alliance
said it shares the same goals as the Accord initiative, and that
efforts "must be rooted in transparency, collaboration, and
The statement, which was provided by founding member
Canadian Tire, added that it worked directly with the Accord as
well as the International Labour Organization and a local
university last month to agree on a common criteria for
inspection safety standards.
To build support for the European-led initiative, the
Canadian labor groups and other organizations sent an open
letter to Hudson's Bay, Canadian Tire, Giant Tiger, Sears Canada
, Walmart Canada, Y.M. Inc. and the Retail
Council of Canada, which are participants in the Alliance. Y.M.
operates stores that include Urban Planet, Bluenotes and Suzy
A spokesman for Walmart said the company was committed to
improving worker safety and ethical sourcing, adding that it has
already completed 200 inspections and posted the first 75
reports on its corporate website.
Hudson's Bay said the Alliance's plan offered long-term
commitment to safety standards in Bangladesh and was working
with organizations that include workers' rights groups.
At present, Canada's largest grocer, Loblaw Co, is
the only Canadian signatory of the European-led Accord.
Garments sold under Loblaw's Joe Fresh brand were
manufactured at the Bangladeshi complex that collapsed in April
and killed more than 1,100 workers. The grocer has pledged to
pay several months of wages to the workers and families affected
by the disaster.
The U.S.-led Alliance's 26 signatories also include Gap
, Macy's, Nordstrom, Target and
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.