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Retailers put pressure on Bangladesh factory owners

July 8, 2013 at 10:57 AM   |   Comments

DHAKA, Bangladesh, July 8 (UPI) -- Several international retailers said they are banding together to apply pressure on factory owners in Bangladesh to make working conditions safer.

An industry-wide agreement on a Bangladesh building safety program begins to take effect Monday, but it does not apply in full until the fall and the retailers took steps on their own to push factory owners to increase safety measures as soon as possible, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Retailers that include Carrefour SA of France and Tesco of Britain wrote to the owner of the Liberty Fashion Wear Ltd. garment factory in Savar, Bangladesh, two weeks ago and demanded the factory be closed and that workers be paid until repairs on the building were completed.

In the letter, the retailers said they would follow through on orders they had already placed at the factory once the building had been deemed safe.

The retailers said the four-story building is not now structurally sound and could collapse under its own weight, the newspaper said.

Safety concerns for factory workers in Bangladesh spread worldwide after a factory collapsed in April, killing more than 1,100 workers.

In late June, President Barack Obama revoked the country's preferential trading status because of concern for "internationally recognized worker rights."

A significant pact signed this summer among retailers establishes a building-inspection program that includes establishing a list of factories that would need to be inspected by next April. It is a five-year agreement that is expected to list up to 2,000 of the country's 5,000 garment factories, the Journal said.

U.S. retailers are attempting to establish a second program that would create a $50 million fund that would go to building safety.

But there is some tension in Europe over the two different approaches to the safety issue.

"The United States is freeloading on our commitment," said Ben Vanpeperstraete, the coordinator of the Clean Clothes Campaign, a garment worker advocacy group.

Topics: Barack Obama
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