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By signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, several large international garment companies are taking an important step towards improving labour conditions in one of the main garment producing countries. Fair Wear Foundation welcomes the Accord and hopes it will soon be followed by other, long-overdue measures.
‘It is unprecedented for an agreement of this type to be so widely supported by the garment industry,’ says Erica van Doorn, director of Fair Wear Foundation. ‘We hope this marks the beginning of a sustained effort: checking fire and building safety will not be enough, if international garment brands don’t change the way they do business.’
Van Doorn points out that unsafe buildings are not just a product of negligent factory managers and inadequate safety inspections. ‘Garment brands often place unreasonable pressure on factories for low prices and fast delivery. This undermines efforts to improve factory conditions.’ This is why Fair Wear Foundation annually conducts an independent review of its member companies’ business practices.
Building safety is one of many serious problems garment workers in Bangladesh face. Poverty-level wages, extreme working hours and sexual harassment are widespread. ‘Millions of garment workers face violations of their human rights on a daily basis,’ says Juliette Li, FWF’s country coordinator for Bangladesh. ‘We have been active in the country for almost ten years. Even though we don’t have all the answers, our comprehensive approach, including very thorough, independent factory audits, means our member companies are frontrunners in the garment industry.’