Bengal clothing producers that work for European multinationals, will be visited by inspectors in the following months who will check the working conditions on site. This is one of the consequences of the collapse of a building in Dhaka, which cost the lives of 1,100 people.
Seventy big companies demand safety
The catastrophe has set several things in motion: a group of seventy European retailers is demanding that subcontractors at least answer to the minimum rules when it comes to safety, working conditions and wages. The biggest client in the country, Swedish H&M, is part of the group asking for better conditions. Unions and other non-governmental organisations are also participating.
During the first stage Bengal subcontractors will be made aware of serious faults, with the demand of fixing them within six months. If this means seizing activities, employees will have the right to be compensated during the first six months.
If a Western client fails to lead its subcontractors in the right direction, other companies that signed the agreement will have the right to file a complaint. The complaint will first reach a steering committee, later it can go through arbitration and the judicial court in the home country of the company.
Americans do not follow
A number, mainly American, chains such as Walmart, GAP and JC Penney are not participating. They prefer to regulate things on their own terms and they do not feel like handing over part of the control to the unions. They are however being put under pressure by the American government. President Barack Obama has cut all privileges for the Bengal clothing sector, because safety still does not get enough attention in the country.
A number of American groups have joined the European agreement. Among them Abercrombie & Fitch and PVH.
The clothing sector in Bangladesh employs about 3.6 million people. It is the second biggest clothing producer in the world, following China.