Over 70 brands have signed the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord.

Thanks to the outcry from consumers across the world, to date over 70 international brands have signed up to the Bangladesh Building and Fire Safety Accord, securing the safety of over 100,000 workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh.

This is an unprecedented development in the acceptance by retailers of responsibility for safety in their supply chains.

Despite over 1 million signatures from across the world Walmart and GAP continue to refuse to sign up, despite having significant manufacturing in Bangladesh and here in Ireland Dunnes Stores still refuse to acknowledge their consumer’s demands and sign the agreement.

Click here for more information on the BFBSA.

One year on from the tragic death of over 250 garment workers, the victims’ families still await full redress.

Still awaiting compensation in Pakistan: one year after Ali Enterprises burnt down

  • Families of more then 250 workers killed during fire still awaiting full and long-term compensation

  • Brands and auditing organisations called on to take responsibility for garment factory fire

German cost-cutter KiK discusses compensation for the victims of the collapse at Rana Plaza during the meeting in Geneva on Septmember 12th 2013, meanwhile survivors of the fire at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan, still await full, long-term and fair compensation. German retailer KiK remains the only known buyer of Ali Enterprises garments.

When the fire broke out during the late shift, the workers were sewing jeans for KiK, which were left strewn around the debris. The fire killed more then 250 people and left many injured.

Investigations into the fire found that workers were trapped inside the overcrowded factory by blocked exits and barred windows. Yet, just weeks before auditors from RINA, an Italian audit company contracted by the Social Accountability Accreditation Services SAAS, visited that factory and awarded it an SA8000 certificate. The SA8000 system, run by Social Accountability International (SAI) is supposed to ascertain that workplaces meet international labour standards and local laws, including on fire and building safety. An investigation carried out into the audit failings showed that fire safety certificates collected by auditors had been issued by an entirely fictitious company. Auditors failed to notice an entire mezzanine floor where many contract workers were employed. Another auditing company UL Responsible Sourcing also audited the factory in 2011 and 2007.

In December 2012, following sustained public pressure, Kik signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Pakistani workers’ rights organisation Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (PILER), in which they agreed to pay one million US dollars in emergency relief. Most of this has now been distributed to families through a commission established by the Sindh High Court. According to the December MoU the amount paid by Kik is not payment in full, and will be subtracted from the final compensation agreed upon.

Long term compensation will be negotiated with all involved stakeholders, employers, audit bodies and possible other buyers, Kik included. SAI, SAAS and Rina have, to date, refused to enter into negotiations on compensation with labour rights groups.

One year on, PILER, together the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF) and other organisations hold a rally with the victims’ families and labour and trade unions with protests also held in Islamabad, Lahore and Multan. 

The Clean Clothes Campaign is calling on all stakeholders, including social auditing organisations SAI and Rina, KiK, the Pakistani government and the employer, to actively participate in negotiations to provide full, long-term and fair compensation to the families of those killed and those workers injured in the fire.

The deaths of hundreds of workers at Ali Enterprises has highlighted, in the most tragic way, that audits do not protect workers rights. Worse, it has shown that these organisations have no regard for those workers it claims to be benefiting” says Sam Maher from the Clean Clothes Campaign. “The auditing organisations have to be held accountable for their severe negligence and must take their share of responsibility for compensating the victims. The Clean Clothes Campaign will, together with its partners, continue to take action to make sure that the long term compensation is paid.”

20 Brands completely ignore victims of Bangladesh factory disasters and refuse to compensate for their negligence.

  • Eleven brands join discussions on compensation to victims of Bangladesh factory disasters.
  • Other key brands turn their back on workers’ plight.
  • Some advance payments agreed

Eleven of the brands and retailers sourcing from the factories involved in the Tazreen and Rana Plaza disasters joined high-level compensation meetings, facilitated by the ILO as a neutral chair, on 11-12 September in Geneva. Many other major companies failed to attend, showing total contempt for the 1,900 workers who were injured and the families of over 1,200 workers who were killed making their products.

IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Monika Kemperle stated: “Consumers will be shocked that almost a half-year has passed since the Rana Plaza disaster with only one brand so far providing any compensation to the disaster’s victims. I respect those brands that came to these meetings. But I cannot understand brands that are not around the table.” 

Regarding Rana Plaza out of a total of 29 brands that were invited the following 9 brands showed good faith by attending the meeting: Bon Marché, Camaieu, El Corte Ingles, Kik, Loblaw, Mascot, Matalan, Primark, Store Twenty One.

20 other companies, all of whom were invited, failed to show up: Adler, Auchan, Benetton, C&A, Carrefour, Cato Corp, The Children’s Place, Dressbarn, Essenza, FTA International, Gueldenpfennig, Iconix Brand, Inditex, JC Penney, Kids Fashion Group, LPP, Mango, Manifattura Corona, NKD, Premier Clothing, PWT Group, Texman and Walmart.

IndustriALL, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) presented a proposed model for compensation, which has been used by brands and retailers in previous factory disasters in Bangladesh. The model includes payment for pain and suffering and loss of income. For Rana Plaza US$74,571,101 would be needed to provide full compensation to all workers, of which the brands are being asked to contribute US$ 33,556,996. For Tazreen US$6,442,000 is required, with US$2,899,000 being asked from the brands.

International experts outlined best practices for the establishment of a compensation fund, overseen by a multi stakeholder committee, which could be created through an agreement by all the parties involved. No such agreement was reached at this meeting, although the brands present committed to continuing discussions on this issue.

IndustriALL, CCC and the WRC would welcome the creation of such a fund and urge all parties to work together to ensure this is set up at the earliest possible date.

The Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Md. Abdul Hannan also addressed the meeting.

Bangladeshi workers and victim’s families hoping for immediate aid will be disappointed. Brands’ commitments after two days were limited to:

  1. Meeting again within the next two weeks to share information and tools, exchange views, and consider next steps.
  2. To contribute financially to a fund to assist injured workers and victims’ families, and commit to move the process of establishing the fund forward quickly.  A coordination committee was created to take the process forward through a multi-stakeholder forum which would be open to the Bangladesh government and employers, together with the brands and retailers, unions and NGOs.
  3. Commitment to coordinated work going forward, building on initial assistance U.K. retailer Primark has already provided to victims. Primark made available their local banking infrastructure in Bangladesh to deliver any funds that are made available on an emergency basis.

Immediately after the meeting Primark committed to providing a further three months salary to all affected families as emergency relief. Unfortunately, none of the other brands or retailers present at the meeting committed to provide such emergency relief.

ZM Kamrul Anam of the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council called on brands to act swiftly:

“We appreciate Primark having already made a three month salary payment to the injured and victims’ families. But when I go back to Bangladesh they will ask me what more was decided here. Those families need food, medicene and housing.  Please, all brands and retailers, match that three months salary for these people in urgent need. Some time can be expected to establish a sustainable solution, but an immediate payment to help these families must be made now.”

At the Tazreen compensation meeting on the previous day, C&A tabled its substantial compensation initiative for the victims and demonstrated its continued commitment to finding a definitive solution. Karl Rieker, which was also in attendance also signaled a readiness to contribute and was commended for positive participation in the Tazreen discussion.

Of the brands and retailers invited to the Tazreen process the following companies failed to participate in the 11 September meeting: Delta Apparel, Dickies, Disney, El Corte Inglés, Edinburgh Woolen Mill, Kik, Li & Fung, Piazza Italia, Sean John, Sears, Teddy Smith, and Walmart.

IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Monika Kemperle stated:

“The disregard of the absent brands for the plight of workers in Bangladesh whose lives have been destroyed by the avoidable accidents at Tazreen and Rana Plaza is shocking in the extreme. Empty promises and direct untruths since the Tazreen fire and the Rana Plaza collapse all so that these Western multinationals can avoid making payments that amount to a minute percentage of turnover.”

UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings stated:

“Walmart is the world’s largest retailer and one of the largest buyers from Bangladesh. They should be a leader in taking responsibility for their global supply chain. Once again Walmart had failed to make a commitment to the workers in Bangladesh who produce the millions of garments sold around the world at large profit.”

Clean Clothes Campaign’s Ineke Zeldenrust stated:

“CCC will continue to put pressure on those brands who have not yet committed to immediately and actively engage in the negotiation process and commit to providing sufficient funds to meet the amounts needed to provide the workers and their families with the compensation they are entitled to under international standards.”

Worker Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova added,

“It is past time that the victims of the worst industrial disaster in history and their families receive assistance from the international brands and retailers that profited from these workers’ labor. It is shocking that not only have hardly any brands committed to any concrete level of assistance, but even more so that most of the companies implicated in the disaster did not even bother to show up to discuss helping the victims.” 

Sandblasting continues in China despite brands’ public pledges to ban the deadly practice.

Activists  continue to demand urgent action from governments and companies to stamp out the continued use of sandblasting and other unsafe finishing processes in the manufacture of denim jeans.  The call comes in a new report into conditions in six denim factories in the Chinese province of Guangdong, a region responsible for half of the world’s entire production of denim jeans.

The report, Breathless for Blue Jeans: Health hazards in China’s denim factories, finds that sandblasting is still widespread in China in order to give jeans a worn or ‘distressed’ look, despite most Western brands banning the practice three years ago because of its link to silicosis, a deadly lung disease that has already caused the deaths of many garment workers.

One worker interviewed said: “In our department, it’s full of jeans and black dust. The temperature on the shop floor is high. It’s difficult to breathe. I feel like I’m working in a coal mine.”

The new research, based on interviews with workers in the factories themselves, also revealed that workers are exposed to other dangerous finishing techniques to distress denim, including hand-sanding, polishing, dye application and spraying chemicals such as potassium permanganate, with limited protective gear and inadequate training in the proper use of equipment.

Factory workers are forced to endure these dangerous conditions for up to 15 hours a day in order to make ends meet, with the basic minimum wage often as low as 1,100 yuan (€137, £116) a month.

Campaigners are calling for a mandatory global ban on sandblasting in the garment industry, along with improved protection for workers involved in all other denim finishing techniques.

The report was produced by IHLO, the Hong Kong Liaison Office of the international trade union movement; Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), also based in Hong Kong; the global network Clean Clothes Campaign; and the workers’ rights pressure group War on Want.

The full report can be downloaded here

 

Victims of the Rana Plaza disaster speak of their trials while retailers continue to delay compensation

As retailers continue to shirk their responsibilities and dodge compensations claims, the survivors and families of victims find themselves in dire straights as they contemplate their futures without income, without compensation,  living with disability and grieving the loss of so many.

 

31 RETAILERS SIGN UP TO THE BANGLADESH AGREEMENT

Global Breakthrough as 31 Retail Brands sign up to Bangladesh Factory Safety Deal

16 May 2013 – The world’s leading retail labels commit to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh before the  midnight deadline. The Accord now covers more than 1000 Bangladeshi garment factories. Implementation starts now!

Clean Clothes Campaign in a powerful alliance with leading unions IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union, and Worker Rights Consortium have changed the rules of the game for workers in Bangladesh. We welcome the decision of the companies who have signed up to the Accord for acting responsibly in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza tragedy. Forty-eight hours ago H&M started the ball rolling and we now have the major global household brands on board.

As the countdown ended the following companies have signed on: H&M, Inditex, C&A, PVH, Tchibo, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Primark, El Corte Inglés, Hess Natur, jbc, Mango, Carrefour, KiK, Helly Hansen, G-Star, Aldi, New Look, Next, Mothercare, Loblaws, Sainsbury’s, Benetton, N Brown Group, Stockmann,  WE Group, Esprit, Rewe, Lidl, Switcher and Abercrombie&Fitch.

Kate Nolan from Clean Clothes Campaign says: ‘The fact that so many brands have signed the legally enforceable safety Accord that has unions and workers at the centre will   bring historic change in the Bangladeshi  industry.  However, it is a shame that Gap and Walmart have not yet signed the Accord.  We strongly encourage them to reconsider their position, as the evidence shows that the programmes they are looking to adopt will completely fail to address the root causes of poor safety in the industry and will marginalise workers.  It is not too late for brands to sign the Accord which will mean workers no longer have to fear for their lives each time they enter their factory.

IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary, Jyrki Raina says, ‘The companies who signed up are to be applauded. H&M showed the way by being the first to sign this week. We will not close the door on brands who want to join the Accord after the deadline but we will be forging ahead with the implementation plan from today. Those who want to join later will not be in a position to influence decisions already made. The train moves on and these companies will drive the process – there can be no uncommitted passengers because the stakes are too high. We are talking improving the working conditions and lives of some of the most exploited workers in the world, earning $38 a month in dangerous conditions.’

UNI Global Union General Secretary, Philip Jennings says, ‘We made it! This accord is a turning point. We are putting in place rules that mark the end of the race to the bottom in the global supply chain.’

Commenting on the no-shows Jennings said, “Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is out of step. By not signing up the Walmart brand sinks to a new low. We will go forward without them.

In agreeing to the binding programme of fire and building safety reforms based on independent inspections, worker-led health and safety committees and union access to factories, signatories commit to underwrite improvements in dangerous factories and properly confront fire safety and structural problems. Importantly the Accord grants workers the right to refuse dangerous work, in line with ILO Convention 155.

 

Living Wage Cambodia

Dignity not Poverty; Support a Living Wage in Cambodia

Garment workers should earn a living wage which can sustain a decent life. In most garment producing countries a living wage is a far cry.

Poverty wages carry severe consequences for workers and their families: extremely long working hours to earn enough to survive, malnutrition due to lack of sufficient food, appalling housing conditions and inadequate health care. Cambodia’s garment industry is the key source of foreign income for the country and employs 350.000 – 450.000 workers. After a big strike in 2010 the wages increased slightly but escalating prices for food, energy and housing leave the workers worse off than before.

Minimum Wage versus Living Wage

In Cambodia the workers who produce the clothes you and I wear earn a minimum wage of 61 US$/month. In addition they have the legal benefits: 5 US$ cost of living allowance, 10 US$ attendance bonus and 7 US$ for housing or transportation. A total of $81 a month. To put this  in context,  recent studies have determined a Cambodian worker needs at least $131 a month to live with in health and dignity.

Brands such as H&M, Zara, Levi’s and GAP are major buyers in Cambodia and benefit from the low production costs. But the cheap prices come at a human cost.

Join our campaign by telling these brands they have a clear responsibility to act to implement a living wage.

  • Support an immediate wage hike to 131 US$
  • Contribute to an increase in allowances for attendance, food, housing and transport
  • Push for regular wage negotiations in the garment industry
  • Publish a concrete action plan to deliver a living wage – the Asia Floor Wage – to all workers in your supply chain

What is a living wage?

The Cambodia living wage campaign lean on the following definition of a living wage:
“In line with the ILO Conventions n°95 and 131, ILO Recommendations n°131 and 135 and the Human Rights Declaration (Art 23), wages and benefits paid for a standard working week shall meet at least legal or industry minimum wage standards and always be sufficient to meet basic needs of workers and their families and to provide discretionary income”.

The Clean Clothes Campaign understands that a Living Wage

– applies to all workers and that there may not be any wage lower than this wage
– must be reached within the standard working week (which is in no case more than 48h) exclusive of benefits/bonuses or overtime pay
– must cover the basic needs of the worker and their families (one wage covers 2 adults and 2 children)
– must  provide some discretionary income (which is at least 10% of the amount needed to cover the basic needs)

Who stands behind the living wage campaign?

The mission of the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) is to improve working conditions and support the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industry. We are a coalition of campaigns in 15 European countries with a network of more than 250 organizations worldwide. We work in close cooperation with partners in garment producing countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Our partner in this campaign is the trade union Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) which has over 50 000 members. C.CAWDU works independently from political parties and takes a constructive approach on social dialogue at different level: They provide training and education, support mobilisation, strikes and rallies, promote and negotiating collective agreements with factories and participate in social policy dialogue on key reforms.

SIGN THE PETITION NOW

SUPPORT THE LIVING WAGE CAMBODIA CAMPAIGN NOW BY CLICKING HERE

Karachi Factory Fire Kills 325

KARACHIsmall

UPDATE FEBURARY 2013

The official death toll is now 262.  After initial reports, the Pakistani government has now put the death toll at 262.

September 11th 2012

325 garment workers die in horrific garment factory fire in Karachi, Pakistan. The fire which broke out on Tuesday evening 11th September, has killed over 325 garment workers with reports that the death toll is expected to rise.

Reports from Pakistan indicate that poor building safety was responsible for the large death toll and that government inspectors had not visited any factories in the industrial zone where the fire took place. Unconfirmed reports indicate that well known brands were producing in the factory and Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland is awaiting documentary evidence of the same.

 This is once again, a stark reminder of the real cost of the fast and cheap, disposable fashion we have become accustomed to. 325 people have been reported dead but this is expected to rise over the next few days. In this case as with the many others that continue to happen within the garment supply chain,  these deaths could have been avoided. Emergency exits were absent or locked, and workers were trapped. This is the usual pattern. It is well known that many workplaces are unsafe, and that workers in key producing countries risk their lives on a daily basis producing clothes for Europe and the USA.

The Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland have introduced the Urgent Appeals campaigns to highlight those issues that most urgently need the public’s attention. Cymehemricomp CCCI are focusing on three campaigns, Deadly Denim, Free Somyot and Justice for Aminul Islam all of which call for actions by members the public to show their support and solidarity for human rights defenders in garment producing countries. However it is incidents like this tragic and needless loss of life that highlights the true cost of the fashion industry’s drive for low prices and high volume and is another reminder of the constant battle workers face to garner their basic human rights.

UPDATE

October 15th 2012

Ali Enterprises was awarded an SA8000 certificate of compliance despite never having been legally registered and having failed to provide employment contracts.

The SA8000 is an internationally recognised certificate of compliance awarded to factories that reach certain acceptable standards in the workplace.

Social Accountability International, the governing body which overseas the registration of auditors and certifying bodies has suspended it’s work with Italian based RINA Group who were directly responsible for accrediting the factory.

Read SAI response here

 

 

September 14th 2012

Pakistani authorities this morning have charged the factory owner and managers with murder.

 

ORLA GUERIN REPORT FROM KARACHI

ACT NOW. 

Send your letter to the Pakistani Ambassador to Ireland.

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