Bangladeshi union leader warns UK retailers 'Rana Plaza could happen again'

By agency reporter
September 7, 2013

The President of the Bangledeshi National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) has today (7 September) warned eight leading UK retailers that there could be a repeat of this year's Rana Plaza tragedy if they refuse to sign up to an international accord designed to protect Bangladeshi factory workers.

Amirul Haque Amin, who is in the UK to speak at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) annual conference this weekend, says several high street names are still refusing to commit to the agreement that will make building inspections compulsory at Bangladeshi factories that supply fashion goods to UK stores.

These brands include Matalan, River Island, Sports Direct/Republic, Jane Norman, Peacocks, Bench, Mexx and Bank Fashion.

The TUC is asking consumers touched by the Dhaka tragedy to use social media to build pressure on the UK clothing brands that are refusing to sign up.

The e-action at http://action.goingtowork.org.uk/bangladeshaccord allows consumers to write directly to the companies and tell them to support strengthening health and safety protection for Bangladeshi textile workers.

The IndustriALL agreement - which has been signed by over 80 international companies including Zara, H&M and Next - commits firms to meeting the cost of making buildings safe, and to working with a monitoring group made up of companies and unions, and chaired by the International Labour Organisation.

In addition, an independent safety inspector will be appointed to oversee all inspections in Bangladesh and to investigate complaints by workers.

In the days leading up to the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April, which claimed over 1,000 lives, staff complaints about large cracks were ignored by managers who ordered the factory stay open.

NGWF president Amirul Haque Amin said: "I am very disappointed that several leading UK retailers are still refusing to commit to this accord. This historic agreement ensures that thousands of factories will have compulsory building inspections for the first time ever.

"Voluntary initiatives have failed to protect workers in the past and if companies in the UK refuse to sign we risk a repeat of the Rana Plaza tragedy. It is essential that companies take more responsibility for the way in which their suppliers treat their employees."

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Rana Plaza was an entirely preventable disaster and leading names on the UK high street must not be allowed to shirk their responsibilities. The health and safety of workers in their overseas supply chains should be their top priority, and not a secondary concern to profits.

"The collapse in Dhaka highlighted once again why we need strong unions and what happens when workers don't have a voice at work."

She concluded: "It is essential we keep up the pressure on those retailers refusing to sign the accord. Consumers can play a big role by writing to these companies."

[Ekk/4]

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