Gap renews pledge to stay in Bangladesh | The Daily Star
12:25 AM, May 27, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:33 AM, May 27, 2013

Gap renews pledge to stay in Bangladesh

Spokesman for US retailer defends decision not to sign safety accord for garment industry

Gap renews pledge to stay in BangladeshGap Inc will continue to buy garments from Bangladesh and help improve working conditions at factories, a spokesman for the US retailer, said yesterday.
Darryl Knudsen, a senior adviser on business and human rights for Gap, spoke at a discussion on 'Best Practices and Benefits from Improving Labour Rights' at Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the capital.
Gap is one of the major US retailers that refused to sign a legally binding fire and building safety accord that pledges to finance workplace upgrades in Bangladesh. On this, Gap breaks with 40 other international retailers that signed the accord designed by IndustriALL, a global federation union.
Morally, Gap supports the agreement, but cannot sign it as the legal systems in Europe and the US are different from each other, Knudsen said.
“We will remain hopeful for the accord. Each of us has taken the issue seriously.”
“Gap has been pressing for a comprehensive fire safety measure since two years ago -- even before the Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza collapse, but no agreement was possible to sign,” Knudsen said. “The identification of the problem is not the solution; we need to work together.”
“Last October, after more than a year of negotiations that failed to result in an agreement, we announced our four-point plan that includes a meaningful commitment of financial support of up to $22 million so that improvements are made,” Gap said in a statement on May 13.
Gap purchases garment products from 78 factories in Bangladesh.
Urging the US to continue the generalised system of preferences for Bangladesh, Roy Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, said millions of garment workers will lose jobs, if the US and the EU take trade actions.
“I would like to draw the attention of the US government so that Wal-Mart, Gap and Sears sign the fire safety accord, Ramesh Chandra said. “Unethical buying practices should be stopped. The brands should pay the right prices for the garment items,” he said.
“Our country will be in trouble if the US and Europe suspend GSP privileges.”
Humayun Kabir, former ambassador of Bangladesh to the US, echoed Ramesh Chandra and urged the US to continue GSP.
Corporate governance needs to be established for solving problems in the private sector, said Karen Hanrahan, US deputy assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labour, while co-chairing the session with former DCCI president Asif Ibrahim.
“This is a time for opportunity. We need to work together and we have to identify the problems first, by making checklists,” she said.
The political, corruption related, social and cultural issues should be resolved through working together, she added. “The US government wants to bring opportunity to Bangladesh,” Hanrahan said.
In his keynote, Wajedul Islam Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Trade Union Centre, emphasised upholding the provision of decent work and wage and right to freedom of association.

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