Blog: Leonie BarrieSense of urgency on factory safety

Leonie Barrie | 13 May 2013

Just two weeks after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex near Dhaka, where the death toll has now risen to over 1,000, another fatal fire at a Bangladesh apparel factory has killed eight people.

The fire at the Tung Hai Sweater company has added a dramatic sense of urgency to efforts to shore up factory safety - with the global union movement calling for Bangladesh to sign up to a binding and enforceable agreement on fire and building safety. Talks on the accord are due to be completed later this week, with the aim of building a sustainable garment industry and empowering workers to refuse dangerous work.

Calculations have also shown that doubling the wages of a worker in Bangladesh would add just 2p to the cost of a T-shirt bought on the UK high street.

For sportswear giant Adidas, one solution being trialled to monitor labour rights at a footwear supplier in Indonesia is the use of mobile phones. Through the system, which is detailed in its latest sustainability report, workers can send a SMS text message and raise the alarm if they are concerned that their rights are being compromised.

And retailer Marks & Spencer is working to update its sourcing and logistics systems after admitting that 20 years of under-investment have led to a sluggish and inconsistent supply chain. The company described this as an area "where M&S has been challenged as it has not necessarily been best in class".

Over in the US, improving weather in late April, combined with rising stock and housing prices, offered some encouragement to clothing retailers as sales gained during the month.

And a planned deepening of trade relations between the European Union and Morocco should streamline customs procedures for the EU clothing and textile industry, whether importing or exporting products from this key north African trading partner.


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