Blog: Leonie BarrieCalls for boiler inspections in Bangladesh

Leonie Barrie | 10 July 2017

Labour rights groups are calling for garment factory safety inspections to be expanded to cover boilers, after a blast at the Multifabs facility in Bangladesh last week killed at least 11 people.

The factory had been inspected by engineers from the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, and had completed a number of renovations including fire separation of the boiler room. However, while fire safety standards address the spread of a fire caused by a boiler explosion, they do not include inspections of the boilers themselves.

The factory had been shut for the Eid holiday and was being readied to resume operations when the explosion happened.

News of the tragedy came as new figures showed Bangladesh booked a rise in apparel exports to the US in June for the first time in five months. Gains were also seen by China and Vietnam, the two largest garment suppliers to the US.

India's hopes of capturing more business within the international textile and clothing market lie in expanding its man-made fibre (MMF) production – combined with innovative product design, improved labour laws, quick delivery systems and drastically improved logistics, experts say.

Mexican apparel makers, meanwhile, want the yarn-forward rule-of-origin removed from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), according to a consultant familiar with the country's position as it gears to negotiate the high-stakes treaty next month.

Workers from Haiti's $550m apparel export industry plan new strikes if the government fails to meet demands for a nearly three-fold wage increase as well as healthcare and food subsidies, just-style has been told.

And trade associations representing apparel brands, retailers and importers are urging the US government not to suspend or terminate AGOA duty-free benefits on imports from Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

UK footwear group Clarks is to begin making shoes in the UK again, with a new manufacturing facility that will utilise "cutting-edge technology" for greater speed to market and greater flexibility and innovation in design.

But for reshoring to succeed, factories in countries like the UK must provide customers with something they need but cannot get at any price elsewhere – such as a full service factory capable of producing 50-1000 pieces of a style, delivering first orders in 7 days and reorders in 5 days.

In his latest roundup of trade politics likely to impact apparel sourcing, Mike Flanagan notes that events in June suggest the role of the EU now seems secure, details of the UK's exit from the EU are more confused than ever – and the approach of Trump's team on steel imports risks creating a crisis.

Although groups representing European textile, apparel and sporting goods firms have welcomed a political agreement struck between Japan and the European Union that will pave the way to a free trade pact between the two.

As part of its commitment to responsible sourcing, US department store retailer Target Corp has embarked on an 18-month project in northern India, aimed at tackling forced labour in its supply chain.

And global sporting goods retailer Decathlon is rolling out a new production Code of Conduct this year, incorporating new international issues and broadening its remit to include environmental and social challenges.

In other news, June proved to be a difficult month for those US apparel retailers still reporting their monthly comparable sales figures; upscale denim brand True Religion Apparel has filed for bankruptcy protection; cotton prices are expected to fall as global stocks rise; and retailer C&A has disclosed the details of over 2,000 supplier factories.

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