14 May 2013

Retailers back safety plans for Bangladesh factories

3:29 pm on 14 May 2013

Some of the world's largest fashion retailers have backed plans to try to improve the safety of clothing factories in Bangladesh.

The agreement was prompted by the collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza building at Savar, 30km south-west of the capital Dhaka, which killed more than 1100 workers on 24 April. Cracks had appeared the day before.

Workers' rights groups have threatened to hold street protests to increase pressure on clothing brands that do not sign the deal by Wednesday.

H&M, Primark and Tesco are some of the companies who have signed the five-year commitment aimed at improving safety standards in Bangladesh garment factories, the BBC reports.

The companies, which have a strong presence in the country, say they already play an active role in trying to make it safer for workers there.

But those signed up say this will allow them to have more influence over how buildings are improved.

Part of the contract will require them to carry out independent safety inspections and cover costs of repairs needed to make factories safer.

The Rana Plaza building collapse is the latest in a series of deadly incidents focusing global attention on safety standards in Bangladesh's garment industry.

On Monday, the government promised to lift trade union restrictions amid pressure to improve garment industry conditions.

It agreed to allow workers to form trade unions without permission from factory owners as part of growing concessions for industry reform.

Rescue operation ends

Emergency workers have ended their rescue operation at the wreckage of the Rana Plaza. Soldiers and salvage workers have recovered 1127 bodies from the site.

A woman garment worker, Reshma, was the last survivor to be pulled from the wreckage, 17 days after the building collapsed.

An army spokesman said the military would hand over the site to the district administration on Tuesday.