Retailers rush to sign Bangladesh accord (well, some)

H&M and Inditex-owned Zara have joined a host of EU high street brands in signing an accord to improve safety conditions in Bangladeshi factories. 'We do not want slave labour,' said Abdul Latif Siddiqui, Bangladesh's minister for textiles.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander

Following the clothing factory fire that killed 1,100 workers in Bangladesh last month, many European retailers have agreed to sign a new contract, raising salaries for workers and vowing to improve factory conditions across the board.

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is legally binding and requires retailers to pay for factory repairs and enforce safety standards. So far, H&M, Zara, C&A, Tesco and Primark have all signed up. However, US clothing chains Gap, Walmart and Sears have decided against opting in to the voluntary agreement, demanding changes to the contract's dispute resolution clauses.

After the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory, workers from across the textile industry rebelled against their poor working conditions and pitiful pay, forcing as many as 300 factories to cease production in the Ashulia industrial area near Dhaka. As a result, ministers have now altered the country's labour law to allow garment workers to form unions. Government has also increased the minimum wage in the sector to $38 (£25) a month. However, this is still one of the lowest wage rates in the world.

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