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U.S., Europe split over Bangladesh safety reforms

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 02:05

May 15 - Wal-Mart has stepped up Bangladesh factory inspections but has decided not to join a Europe-led initiative to prevent another disaster in the garment industry. As Joanna Partridge reports, workers have also begun to demand better safety and more rights.

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Little remains of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh - where over 1,100 workers died when the building collapsed. As production continues elsewhere - it's hoped the disaster will lead to better working conditions. SOUNDBITE: (Bengali) WORKER, NAZMA BEGUM, SAYING: "We don't want to work in a factory like the Rana Plaza. We want to work in a safe factory, we need a safe atmosphere because my life is more important than my job." The U.S and European companies which rely on Bangladesh to supply them with inexpensive clothing have been spurred to action by the tragedy. Even if they can't quite agree on how. Some of Europe's biggest clothing brands are backing an agreement for fire and building safety checks to take place. International retailers had until Wednesday to join the consortium. U.S retailers weren't due to join the European pact, over concerns about an industry agreement with legally binding objectives. Instead, Wal-Mart says it is stepping up inspections in the 279 factories which supply its stores. The world's biggest retailer asked the Bangladesh government to investigate the structure of the Liz Apparels building, which has supplied Wal-Mart in the past. The factory's managing director says the cracks that have developed in the factory aren't dangerous, although another building has been closed. SOUNDBITE: (English) MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE FACTORY, KHANDAKAR MOHAMMAD SAIFUL ALAM, SAYING: "We find that one of our building that was ten lines three factories, that is the building was so old the building owner is not provided us the building structural design and approval copy, then immediately we shut down this factory, we close it and we paid all the benefit and wages according to the law." Wal-Mart says it's found problems at two locations and asked the Bangladesh government to suspend production. The government is keen to ensure business continues as normal, as garments make up around 80% of the country's exports. But workers have also begun to demand better safety and more rights, which may also force greater change in the industry.

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U.S., Europe split over Bangladesh safety reforms

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 02:05