Blog: Leonie BarrieFactory inspections get underway

Leonie Barrie | 26 November 2013

Inspections got underway last week to assess the structural, fire and electrical safety of at least 2,000 garment factories in Bangladesh, after three separate groups agreed on a common set of standards.

The inspections, being led by the government-backed National Tripartite Committee, will cover those facilities that are not already part of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety or the Accord on Fire and Safety in Bangladesh - which are supported by retailers and brands in North America and Europe.

It remains to be seen if these efforts will be enough to safeguard Bangladesh's apparel exports.

Initial results of inspections at Bangladeshi factories supplying garments to retail giant Wal-Mart Stores found that more than 30 posed a safety risk - but most have since made improvements. The US retailer has assessed more than 200 factories in Bangladesh, and released details on 75 of them.

And a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has warned that recurring industrial accidents may be a deterrent to international buyers and investors. If steps are not taken to improve working conditions in the country, then economic growth could also suffer, it says.

The first signs of a slowdown in US apparel imports from Bangladesh were seen in September's trade data. A massive double-digit hike in US apparel imports from Vietnam outpaced more modest single-digit gains by China and Bangladesh - with the latter's growth the slowest since factory safety issues came to the fore earlier this year.

Meanwhile, in Burma, the first comprehensive survey of the country's labour force for more than two decades is to get underway. It could also pave the way for a Decent Work monitoring and reporting scheme.

In other news, the turnaround of struggling US department store chain JC Penney is beginning to take hold, according to its CEO - even though third-quarter losses widened to US$489m on lower revenues and margins.

And a new report from just-style suggests the lingerie sector will not fully recover from the global slowdown until 2017 - with the bulk of this growth expected to come from emerging markets Russia and China.

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