The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety has completed inspections at more than 50 percent of the nearly 700 factories from which members of the alliance source.
The alliance, formed last year in the wake of the February 2013 garment factory collapse that killed more than 1,100 workers, has a five-year mission to address garment-worker conditions in Bangladesh. The incident also exposed unconscionable conditions there, including child labor, staff beatings, ignoring fire safety rules and threatening trade union members with murder, recent investigations have revealed.
“As we reflect back on the terrible tragedy that occurred at Rana Plaza last year, we are reminded of what is at stake,” said Independent Chair of the alliance and former U.S. Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher. “We remain steadfast in our promise to bring change to the women and men whose livelihood depends on the safety of these factories.”
In addition to the inspections, the alliance says that more than 400,000 factory managers and workers have been trained to date, and the intent is to train more than 1 million by July. The alliance training program includes equipping factory management, worker representatives and trade union members “with the skills and tools to better educate the larger workforce on critical fire and life safety issues.” The curriculum is designed to help workers identify safety risks, empower them to communicate concerns and inform them of the best way to evacuate the building in the event of an emergency.
Beyond progress on inspections and training, work is underway to establish a remediation process that offers “appropriate oversight and advanced technical support to ensure factories can achieve the necessary upgrades and improvements,” the alliance said. Also, to reinforce the importance of worker empowerment, the alliance will roll out a worker helpline at 50 Bangladeshi factories this month, with plans to expand to 150 factories by the end of the year.
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety was founded by a group of 17 North American apparel companies, retailers and brands who joined together to develop and launch the Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative.
Currently the group has 26 members: Ariela Alpha International, LLC; Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited; Carter’s Inc.; The Children’s Place Retail Stores Inc.; Costco Wholesale Corporation; Fruit of the Loom; Gap Inc.; Giant Tiger Stores Limited; Hudson’s Bay Company; IFG Corp.; Intradeco Apparel; J.C. Penney Company Inc.; The Jones Group Inc.; Jordache Enterprises, Inc.; The Just Group; Kohl’s Department Stores; L. L. Bean Inc.; M. Hidary & Company, Inc., Macy’s; Nordstrom Inc.; Public Clothing Company; Sears Holdings Corporation; Target Corporation; VF Corporation; Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; and YM Inc.
Supporting associations include: American Apparel & Footwear Association, BRAC, Canadian Apparel Federation, National Retail Federation, Retail Council of Canada, Retail Industry Leaders Association, and United States Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel. In addition, Li & Fung, a major Hong Kong-based sourcing company which does business with many members of the alliance, serves in an advisory capacity.
Perhaps this will be one instance where tragedy spurs positive good.
Image credit: Bangladesh building by Flying Journals via Flickr