Blog: Leonie BarrieEfforts to improve safety in Bangladesh continue

Leonie Barrie | 28 October 2013

In the week that marked six months since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh, attention not surprisingly turned to ongoing efforts to improve garment worker safety - and the progress made so far.

One major development saw the Better Work Bangladesh programme finally get the go-ahead. The move is part of a wider US$24.2m package running over three-and-a-half years, that focuses on minimising the threat of fire and building collapse and ensuring the rights and safety of workers. It is being overseen by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

But a report from labour rights groups claims not enough progress has been made on delivering compensation to families and workers affected by the Rana Plaza collapse. While acknowledging that some developments have been made on compensation, activists say the majority of brands linked to the disaster have yet to commit to making a contribution.

Among those companies singled out for their efforts to contribute are clothing retailers Primark and Loblaw. Both are moving ahead with plans for long-term compensation for Rana Plaza workers and their families - and calling on other brands to contribute their "fair share" of aid.

And the group of North American brands and retailers working to improve fire and building safety in Bangladesh factories that supply its garments has agreed the standards against which facilities will be assessed. It has also established a committee of third-party experts to help with implementation.

Meanwhile, companies sourcing garments from Cambodia - including Gap, H&M, Levi Strauss, Nike and Puma - have raised their concerns at attempts by local manufacturers to "undermine" plans to publicly disclose details of factory audits.

The 13 buyers have hit out at instructions urging factory operators to refuse entry to ILO monitors unless they are accompanied by government officials, describing the conditions as "deeply troubling."

And after booking a 13.8% hike in third-quarter profit, boosted by strong sales in its outdoor & action sports and jeanswear businesses, executives at apparel giant VF Corporation are in buoyant mood. Net income surged to $433.8m and revenue rose 5% to $3.3bn, making the owner of Timberland and The North Face confident about its full-year prospects.

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