BANGLADESH: Gap to implement fire safety plan in factories
Specialty clothing retailer Gap Inc is to introduce new fire safety standards at supplier factories in Bangladesh, in a move that mirrors similar measures announced recently by PVH, owner of the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, and German retailer Tchibo.
The proposal from the San Francisco based firm, which owns the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy brands, includes hiring a fire safety inspector to oversee garment factories making its brands, loaning vendors up to $20m for safety improvements, and providing up to $2m in compensation to workers at its biggest producers who are displaced while factories are being improved.
The move comes nearly two years after a factory fire at the That's It Sportswear factory in Bangladesh killed 29 people and injured a number of others. The factory, belonging to the Hameem group, also supplied PVH, JC Penney, VF Corporation, Abercrombie & Fitch, Carters, Kohls and Target.
Since 2006, more than 600 garment workers have died in Bangladesh due to unsafe buildings - and the industry hit the headlines again last month when more than 300 clothing and footwear workers died in two factory fires in Pakistan.
The companies sourcing from That's it Sportswear have been widely criticised for failing to establish a credible programme to address fire and building safety issues across Bangladesh's ready-made garment industry.
But Gap says its programme is a "critical step forward," and represents an industry-wide solution agreed with international labour organisations, Bangladeshi vendors, and other engaged stakeholders.
"Gap Inc is deeply committed to Bangladesh. We share the same goal with other stakeholders to make tangible change as quickly as possible," said Bobbi Silten, senior vice president of global responsibility for Gap Inc.
"We believe the time has come to take action, and hope others in our industry will step forward with similar plans that will significantly improve fire safety in the apparel factories in Bangladesh."
Back in March, apparel maker PVH Corp committed $1m to improving conditions in Bangladesh's garment factories as part of a two-year scheme focusing on fire and building safety. Its plans include establishing an in-factory training programme, setting up factory health and safety committees, reviewing existing building regulations and enforcement, and developing a mechanism for workers to report health and safety risks.
And Tchibo last month said it intends to establish independent building inspections, worker rights training, public disclosure and a review of safety standards as part of its fire and building safety programme in the Bangladesh ready-made garment industry.
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