After the multiple tragedies at garment factories this spring in Bangladesh, which have taken over 1,100 lives, safety reform in the country is clearly beyond imperative. Of course, for it to come into effect, the Western companies who produce their clothes in the region have to be complicit in a change in policy. It’s great news, then, that H&M and Zara’s parent company, Inditex, have agreed to a legally binding fire and safety agreement to protect the country’s garment factory workers.
What’s also important here is that these brands, under the agreement, won’t work with factories who refuse to upgrade their safety standards. So while the Western companies are required to foot the bill for renovations and repairs, they will also sever ties with domestic factory owners who refuse, for whatever reason, to make their buildings safe. Last but not least, companies are required to allow independent safety inspections of the factories, a practice that was sorely lacking before.
And, on an excellent related note — as of this week Bangladesh’s garment workers are legally able to unionize without seeking permission from their factory owners first. Now let’s just hope that protection is enforced.
Other brands who produce their clothing in Bangladesh have been asked to sign the safety agreement by tomorrow. We’re looking forward to seeing who else gets on board.