Following the fire that killed 250 garment workers at the Ali Entreprises factory in Karachi, Pakistan 11 years ago, the Clean Clothes Campaign is keen to encourage the major fashion brands and companies that are yet to sign the Pakistan Accord on Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry (Pakistan Accord).
The Clean Clothes Campaign explains that 72 brands have signed the Pakistan Accord since it was announced in December 2022 with the aim of transforming the country’s workplace safety system.
The Pakistan Accord is a legally binding agreement between global union federations, UNI Global Union, IndustriALL Global Union, and garment brands and retailers for an interim term of three years starting in 2023.
The Clean Clothes Campaign believes the fire highlighted that voluntary, brand-led systems do not work, adding that it took the tragedy of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 for brands and unions to agree on the creation of the original safety accord in Bangladesh.
The organisation explains some of the brands on the Pakistan Accord list are ones that stepped up to protect their workers in Bangladesh but are now “dragging their feet” to sign the Pakistan Accord.
Clean Clothes Campaign says these brands include the likes of UK online retailers Boohoo, The Very Group and Misguided as well as department store chain Target Australia, Hong Kong fashion brand Esprit, and fashion brand Fruit of the Loom.
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It also cites brands that have not signed the safety accords in either Bangladesh or Pakistan such as Swedish homeware retailer IKEA, US fashion brand Levi’s, US fashion company Kontoor Brands (Lee, Wrangler), global online retailer Amazon, US retailer Target US and sports retailer Decathlon.
What the named brands had to say
Levi Strauss & Co. told Just Style exclusively the brand believes workers who make its products should work in a safe and healthy environment and be treated with dignity and respect.
It adds: “We have established a record of worker safety practices in Bangladesh that began long before the International Accord was created, including the establishment of a comprehensive programme for building, electrical and fire safety that has served as a model for our international programmes. We have already implemented a building integrity and fire safety programme in Pakistan, including third-party assessments, implemented corrective actions when assessments identified issues, and a third-party grievance reporting hotline within all factories across Pakistan.”
A Kmart Australia and Target Australia spokesperson told Just Style: “Kmart Australia is a signatory of the Pakistan Accord, however the volume that Target Australia sources from Pakistan is not material in scope. We are committed to collective action where appropriate for our businesses, which is why Kmart and Target are both signatories of the Bangladesh Accord, which is a key sourcing country for our brands.”
The spokesperson added that both Kmart Australia and Target Australia use its Ethical Sourcing Code to set expectations for suppliers, backed up by an audit programme and factory training to ensure our suppliers have safe and fair workplaces.
An Amazon spokesperson told Just Style: “At Amazon, we are committed to ensuring that the products and services we provide are produced in a way that respects human rights and the environment. We engage with suppliers that are committed to these same principles and have clear requirements outlined for suppliers in our supply chain standards.”
Boohoo, which is already a part of the Bangladesh Accord, shared with Just Style: “We support the efforts of the Accord and becoming a signatory of the Pakistan Accord is under review as part of our broader approach to supporting our suppliers.”
An IKEA spokesperson also told Just Style that for nearly 20 years, the company has worked to develop and implement the requirements in its supplier code of conduct, IWAY, for real change on the ground in its value chain.
The spokesperson continued: “Compliance to IWAY is mandatory for all suppliers and service providers that work with IKEA and sets clear requirements and ways of working on environmental, social and working conditions, animal welfare, including fire and building safety. This applies to all suppliers, regardless of industry, or where in the world they operate.
“IKEA welcomes commitments to increase standards and working conditions in the production sector but will remain independent from the International Accord. We believe that our own systems, that are based on decades of experience and cooperation with thousands of suppliers across the world, best enable us to further improve and strengthen conditions in the production sector and beyond.”
Kontoor Brands (owner of Lee and Wrangler) said: “Kontoor Brands learned a lot from the tragic events that led to the first Accord in Bangladesh. Specifically, we learned that the health and safety issues were not unique to Bangladesh. In response, Kontoor developed our own specialised program to address fire, electrical and structural safety concerns with our suppliers, which we refer to as the KTB Critical Life Safety Program (CLS Program). We support the efforts of the Pakistan Accord and believe it is of great value for companies operating in Pakistan that do not have specialised programs such as our KTB CLS Program.”
The other brands had not responded to Just Style’s request for comment at the time of going to press.
Relief disbursement for Ali Enterprises victim’s families
The Clean Clothes Campaign also highlights the families of those affected by the Ali Enterprises fire in 2016 were enrolled in a programme guaranteeing life-long pensions.
However, it claims the families and labour rights organisations in Pakistan who fought hard for this agreement have not been included in decisions about the future of this fund.
The Clean Clothes Campaign says it is concerned at the lack of consent and transparency displayed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its management of the disbursement process.
It is urging the reinstatement of a national oversight committee to include the Ali Enterprises Fire Affectees Association, the Pakistan Institute for Labour Education and Research (PILER), and the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) so that they can continue representing the affected workers and dependents on issues related to the disbursement of pensions.
But ILO says it does not share the views of the Clean Clothes Campaign regarding the administration of the disbursement of the compensation paid to the victims of the Baldia fire (Ali Enterprises fire incident).
The organisation explains: “The actions of the ILO, as designated fiduciary of the funds provided voluntarily by KiKTextilien und Non-food GmbH (KiK), have been guided solely by the best interest of the victims. The ILO is currently in the process of providing clarifications requested by the Ali Enterprises Fire Affectees’ Association, the Pakistan Institute for Labour Education and Research (PILER) and the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF).”
Nasir Mansoor, general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation in Pakistan, says: “The ILO made an agreement with an insurance company to run the programme without consent of the Affectees Association or PILER and NTUF and even refuses to share the agreement with the insurance company with us. What credibility does this programme have without oversight by those who represent the people affected by the fire?”
Last month, the Pakistan Accord garment factory safety programme, which was launched by the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry last year, took a significant step forward by publishing its first-ever list of approved suppliers.