BANGLADESH: PVH commits $1m to improving factory safety
Apparel maker PVH Corp today (21 March) revealed plans to commit $1m to improving conditions in Bangladesh's garment factories - as an ABC News report prepares to criticise it for continuing to source clothes at a facility where dozens of workers died in a fire.
The new two-year scheme focuses on fire and building safety, especially the need to "create a safe and sustainable work environment within the Bangladeshi ready-made garment industry."
It plans to establish an in-factory training programme, set up factory health and safety committees, review existing building regulations and enforcement, and develop a mechanism for workers to report health and safety risks.
The various elements of the scheme will be directed by a chief inspector, who will also design and implement a fire safety inspection programme based on internationally recognised workplace safety standards.
"We hope this agreement...will result in safer factories and establish a benchmark for fire and building safety standards and practices throughout Bangladesh," said PVH chairman and CEO Emanuel Chirico.
PVH (formerly Phillips-Van Heusen), whose brands also include Calvin Klein, Nautica and Timberland, was one of a group of US brands and retailers sourcing from the That's It Sportswear factory when a fire in December 2010 killed 29 workers and injured a number of others.
The factory, belonging to the Hameem group, also supplied JC Penney, VF Corporation, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Carters, Kohls and Target.
A year later, two more workers perished and over 50 were injured in a stampede triggered by panic after a boiler explosion at Eurotex.
The companies sourcing from That's it Sportswear have been widely criticised for failing to establish a credible programme to address safety issues across Bangladesh's ready-made garment industry.
However, PVH today said the new safety scheme will only go into effect when at least three other well-known international brand owners or retailers sign onto the agreement.
Under the pact, participating brand owners and retailers will identify the RMG facilities they use and will require these facilities to create health and safety committees to reduce illness and injury.
If a facility fails to remediate high safety risks or implement other aspects of the programme, the companies warn they will, as a last resort, move production to a safe facility in Bangladesh.
The Clean Clothes Campaign, Worker Rights Consortium, The International Labor Rights Forum, and Maquila Solidarity Network, as well as a group of eight international and Bangladeshi trade unions, are backing the agreement.
But Chirico adds that "cooperation from the Bangladesh Manufacturers & Exporters Association, its members and the Bangladeshi Government" is still needed to put it into effect.
The ABC News Investigative Unit's full report is being aired tonight on "World News With Diane Sawyer" at 6:30 ET and on "Nightline" at 11:35 ET.
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