River Island to sign Bangladesh safety accord

By agency reporter
September 24, 2013

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has welcomed clothing retailer River Island's decision to sign up to the Bangladesh accord - a union-backed agreement - designed to improve workplace safety in the country, following the Rana Plaza factory collapse which killed over 1,000 textile workers earlier this year.

River Island was one of eight UK retailers holding out against the Bangladesh fire and building safety accord, which has already been backed by most of the big names on the UK high street including Zara, Next, Primark, New Look and Debenhams.

River Island's signature follows an extensive push this month by unions and other campaigners for the retailer to change its position.

Over 5,000 members of the TUC's Going to Work online network have sent email messages of protest to the company. And at the TUC's annual conference in Bournemouth earlier this month, Bangladeshi garment workers' leader Amirul Haque Amin urged the fashion store to do the decent thing and sign the agreement.

The move now commits River Island to join with around 90 brands and retailers in funding inspection and safety training in over 1,700 factories across Bangladesh.

As a result, Bangladeshi workers will have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions and be entitled to full lay-off pay whilst any repairs recommended as a result of safety inspections are completed.

This represents a major step forward for employees in the country's troubled garment industry, which has seen regular workplace fires and accidents claim many hundreds of lives in recent years, says the TUC.

The spotlight now falls on the seven other UK-based brands which are still refusing to sign the accord - Peacocks, Jane Norman, Bench, Bank Fashion, Republic, Matalan and Mexx. The TUC intends to step up its campaign, using UK consumers to keep up pressure until these last few companies agree to sign.

Welcoming River Island's decision to commit to the accord, TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: "We're pleased River Island has stepped up to its responsibilities for its workers' safety in Bangladesh. The few remaining brands outside the accord now need to consider their position even more urgently. No-one's life should be worth as little as a few extra pence on a t-shirt."


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