Blog: Leonie BarrieBangladesh factory checks highlight safety issues

Leonie Barrie | 17 March 2014

First findings released last week from inspections at ten garment factories used by members of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh have highlighted widespread fire, electrical safety and potential structural problems.

But none are on a par with those that caused the collapse of the Rana Plaza building last April - and the assessments are on track for completion in September, the group says.

The week also saw efforts to improve building safety standards in Bangladesh's garment industry get a new push from a project to strengthen the construction permit approval process and related building inspection mechanisms.

Yet while compensation payments to victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse are due to start next month, campaigners admit funds still fall far short of the $40m needed to make payments to all workers.

The apparel industry and its supply chain have experienced "profound change" and "significant action" following recent factory tragedies in Bangladesh, according to Rick Darling, executive director of government & public affairs at Li & Fung.

Speaking in London last week, he discussed the industry's efforts to improve factory safety, the role played by manufacturers, retailers and authorities, and the increasing need for transparency.

And as foreign investors in the garment sector trickle into Myanmar/Burma, local research companies and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are undertaking a study that could prompt the country's parliament to pass a minimum wage law by December this year.

A rise in US apparel imports in January suggests retailers are optimistic for a good start to the year, with gains outpacing imports of all goods and services during the month and Vietnam the fastest-growing supplier.

And finally, the long-running takeover tussle between two US retailers has come to an end after Men's Wearhouse won a US$1.8bn deal to buy Jos A Bank Clothiers. The combined company will become the fourth largest men's retailer in the US, with $3.5bn a year in sales and around 1,700 stores.

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