Blog: Leonie BarrieNew pressure for worker safety

Leonie Barrie | 4 February 2013

Calls for retailers and brands to take steps to ensure the safety of workers making their clothes have been stepped up again following yet more deaths in a garment factory fire in Bangladesh.

At least seven workers were killed in a blaze at the unlicensed Smart Export Garment factory in Dhaka last weekend - just two months after 112 people lost their lives in another apparel factory fire in Bangladesh.

As well as new pressure from labour rights groups and the global trade union federation, the European Commission has also urged the Bangladesh authorities to take immediate action. Bangladesh benefits from preferential access to the EU market, which is also its largest trade partner - but the EU is "deeply concerned" about the country's labour conditions, it says.

Spanish retail group Inditex has suspended two suppliers after it appears they were illegally subcontracting to Smart Export Garment. Apparel for the firm's Bershka and Lefties brands - as well as those for other European retailers - was found at the site.

Over at H&M Hennes & Mauritz, concerns that Uzbek cotton is getting into its supply chain have prompted the fashion retailer to take a tough stance with its suppliers. As well as asking them to sign a commitment that their cotton does not come from Uzbekistan, it has also encouraged one of its suppliers to buy out a stake owned by Korean conglomerate Daewoo.

H&M is also planning to ramp up investment in its online systems and new stores in 2013, after posting a 7% rise in full-year profits thanks to higher sales.

While Europe is being eyed as a key market for Colombia's clothing export sector as it aims to diversify its sales away from a reliance on the US and neighbouring South American countries.


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