| July 10
July 10 Nearly 20 North American retailers
including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Gap Inc
unveiled a 5-year safety plan for Bangladesh garment factories
on Wednesday that would include inspecting every factory within
The announcement in Washington by the Alliance for
Bangladesh Worker Safety on Wednesday comes after 1,129 workers
were killed in the collapse of a Bangladesh garment plant in
April and another 112 people perished in November fire at a
A separate safety plan including coordinated inspections was
announced by a group of mainly European brands on Monday.
A few student protesters were outside the building in
Washington, where the plan was announced. The group United
Students Against Sweatshops handed out fliers, saying "Gap and
Walmart: Bangladeshi Workers Reject Your Fake Safety Plan."
Funding for the North American plan is based on how much
production each retailer has in Bangladesh; those at higher
levels will pay $1 million a year for five years.
So far, $42 million has been raised for the project. Ten
percent of the funds will be set aside to assist workers
temporarily displaced by factory improvements or if a factory
closes for safety reasons. The money will also support a
non-governmental organization chosen to implement it. A decision
on the NGO should come within 30 days.
The 17 current members of the alliance include: Canadian
Tire Corp Ltd ; Carter's Inc ; The Children's
Place Retail Stores Inc ; Gap; Hudson's Bay Co ;
IFG Corp; J.C. Penney Co Inc ; Jones Group Inc ;
Kohl's Corp ; L. L. Bean Inc; Macy's Inc ; Nordstrom
Inc ; Public Clothing Co; Sears Holdings Corp ;
Target Corp ; VF Corp ; and Wal-Mart.
Hong Kong sourcing company Li & Fung Ltd, which
does business with many of the companies involved, is serving as
an adviser. Additional members are expected to join in the
"The safety record of Bangladeshi factories is unacceptable
and requires our collective effort," member chief executives
said in a joint statement. "We can prevent future tragedies by
consolidating and amplifying our individual efforts to bring
about real and sustained progress."
Goals include developing common safety standards within
three months, sharing inspection results, and getting factories
to support the democratic election and operation of worker
An independent board chairman, set to be named in the next
few weeks, will oversee the plan. Four retailers and four others
will also be on the board.
The plan, Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative, was developed
with assistance from former U.S. Senators George Mitchell and
Olympia Snowe, who acted as independent facilitators at the
Bipartisan Policy Center. The group has asked Mitchell and Snowe
to verify the effectiveness of the program over at least the
first two years.
Some companies are also set to offer a combined total of
over $100 million in loans and access to capital to help factory
owners improve safety.
The North American group's plan is being backed by the
American Apparel & Footwear Association, Canadian Apparel
Federation, National Retail Federation, Retail Council of
Canada, Retail Industry Leaders Association, and the United
States Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel.
A larger number of mostly European retailers and brands
backed a safety accord put together with the help of labor
unions. The group behind that plan includes the world's two
biggest fashion retailers, Inditex SA, owner of the
Zara chain, and H&M. A small number of North American
companies such as PVH Corp signed onto that accord.