Three weeks after 1,100 textile workers died when their workshops collapsed in Bangladesh, H&M, Inditex and C&A have signed a charter that should drastically improve the security of Bengal textile workers.
Rising consumer protest
The agreement H&M and parent company of Zara, Inditex, have signed, is valid for the next five years. It includes more independent inspections of buildings, with the obligation to improve conditions of dangerous circumstances. The document also acknowledges labour unions' rights to inform workers about their rights and their safety. The International Labour Organization (ILO) supports the deal.
The clothing industry in Bangladesh employs about 3 to 5 million people, but the last months the country has been in the news repeatedly concerning its unsafe workshops. Three weeks ago over 1,100 workers lost their lives when their factory collapsed. This led to worldwide outrage and petitions that were signed by more than a million consumers.
H&M “largest buyer”
“No worker needs to fear fires, building collapses or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures.”, says Swedish clothing giant H&M, the largest buyer in Bangladesh (although the chain emphasised it was not a customer of the collapsed factory). “We hope for a broad coalition of signatures in order for the agreement to work effectively on ground”, says Helena Helmersson, Head of Sustainability H&M.
Inditex also signed the new agreement with IndustriALL Global Union, the driving force behind the negotiations with clothing brands. Next to the two largest textile retailers in the world also C&A has signed the agreement.
“This is absolutely historic”, says Ben Vanpeperstraete of Clean Clothes Campain, the NGO that has been striving for better working conditions for years. “Not only does it hold extensive agreements, it is a commitment made by the largest clothing chains in the world. A better signal could not be given to the world.”
Especially the fact the brands have committed to pay for renovations that make factories safer, is a huge step forward: “This way the agreement will save lives”, said the NGO, but "the battle is not over yet, because low wages are not mentioned in the agreement."