* Other brands have until May 15 deadline to join accord
* Death toll at 1,127 as recovery operation nears end
* Deal to involve financial commitment to improve safety
* Wal-Mart, Gap also involved in fire and building safety
By Veronica Ek and Clare Kane
STOCKHOLM/MADRID, May 13 The world's two biggest
fashion retailers, Inditex and H&M, along with
several other companies have backed an accord aimed at
preventing another disaster like last month's Bangladesh
factory building collapse that killed more than 1,100 people.
The agreement on fire and building safety, which is being
led by the International Labour Organisation, trade unions and
other lobby groups, has been under negotiation since the Rana
Plaza building collapse on April 24.
Deadly incidents at factories, including a fire in November
that killed 112 people, have focused global attention on safety
standards in Bangladesh's booming garment industry, the world's
biggest exporter of clothing after China.
As of Monday, Inditex SA, Hennes & Mauritz AB, U.S. apparel
maker PVH Corp, Britain's Tesco Plc and Primark
, and COFRA Holding AG's C&A had announced their support.
German retailer Tchibo also agreed to the plan, according to
IndustriALL Global Union, which has been driving the
negotiations to get brands to sign up for the agreement.
IndustriALL said it hoped for several more brands to join by
a May 15 deadline set after talks in Germany last month with
major brands and retailers. IndustriALL declined to comment
before Wednesday's deadline on a total financial commitment for
the project, but said "it is a substantial amount, enough to
make a difference."
PVH SET TO COMMIT UP TO $2.5 MILLION
Swedish fashion retailer H&M, which is a major purchaser of
garments from Bangladesh but did not use any of the suppliers
operating in the collapsed factory, said the five-year accord
would add to its already strict requirements for suppliers.
"We hope for a broad coalition of signatures in order for
the agreement to work effectively on the ground," H&M head of
sustainability Helena Helmersson said in a statement.
H&M said the agreement would also need to align with an
action plan agreed to by the Bangladesh government, industry
associations and trade unions to reach all 5,000 factories. It
declined to give details of any financial commitment.
Zara owner Inditex, the world's largest clothing retailer,
said it also supported the agreement. "The accord has not come
out yet, but as you know we have played a very active part in
its development," a spokesman said.
PVH, whose brands include Calvin Klein, said it would commit
up to $2.5 million to underwrite the programme set to be
financed by the participating companies. PVH was the first
company to agree to a memorandum of understanding on Bangladeshi
safety issues last year, followed by Germany's Tchibo.
Britain's Tesco said it would create a fund of 1 million
pounds ($1.53 million) to support improvements across the
industry in Bangladesh, among other efforts it will pursue.
"Tesco did not use factories in the Rana Plaza building, but
we are all responsible for ensuring we prevent another tragedy,"
Tesco Group Commercial Director Kevin Grace said in a statement.
FINAL DETAILS YET TO COME
A spokesman for IndustriALL said the final draft of the deal
would only be published on Wednesday but included strengthening
workers' rights, training and brands making a financial
commitment relative to the size of their business in Bangladesh.
IndustriALL said last week the accord involves a coordinated
system of inspections, training and financial commitments from
retailers as well as giving workers the power to refuse
As salvage workers neared the end of their search for
victims on Monday, Bangladesh's cabinet paved the way for
parliament to allow garment workers to form trade unions without
prior approval from factory owners.
Other big brands involved in the fire and building safety
talks include Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Gap Inc,
which said last year it would launch its own safety programme.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, did not say whether
it plans to sign the accord. The company said that it is working
with various parties "to come to an appropriate resolution" and
"develop broad-based solutions for the industry."
Gap said it was ready to sign on to the accord if there is a
modification in the area of how disputes are resolved in the
"With this single change, this global, historic agreement
can move forward with a group of all retailers, not just those
based in Europe," Gap said in a statement.
Representatives from Gap did not immediately respond to a
request seeking more information about the modification.
Separately, Walmart on Monday called on the Bangladesh
government to stop production at one apparel factory and
investigate the condition at another until workers' safety could
Avaaz, a global advocacy organisation, said that with H&M
committed to the plan, its campaign to push retailers to join in
would now focus on Gap and Wal-Mart. The group's online petition
pushing for a Bangladesh fire and building safety agreement had
more than 923,000 signatures by Monday.