Retailers, labor groups, react to factory collapse

May 1, 2013 at 9:10 AM
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ESCHBORN, Germany, May 1 (UPI) -- Labor groups and retailers met in Germany to form a collective response to the lethal building collapse in Bangladesh, participants said.

Representatives of U.S. chains Walmart and the Gap, Swedish chain H&M, Spanish retailers El Corte Ingles SA and Mango, Italian retailer Benetton and more than two dozen others attended the meeting in Eschborn, Germany, at the headquarters of GIZ, a German federal agency, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

At the site of the collapsed building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, rescuers found evidence that the factory was making clothing for Canadian retailer Loblaw Cos., as well as Mango, El Corte Ingles and Benetton Group.

Loblaw and El Corte Ingles have offered to compensate victims and families of victims of the disaster, the Journal said.

Bangladesh is the world's second largest clothing exporter, after China. It is a $20 billion business for the country, the Journal said.

Whether the meeting will produce meaningful change is unclear. After a lethal factory fire in 2010, retailers signed on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, which was crafted by the International Labor Rights Forum.

However, not enough retailers signed on to the agreement to make it effective. Last year, two factory fires claimed more than 100 garment workers' lives in Bangladesh, the Journal said.

"What will end these disasters is an urgent program of building renovations. That will only happen when brands make enforceable commitments to carry out and pay for it," said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, who attended the meeting in Germany.

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