With the 20-day rescue operation over on Monday, rescuers, army men and common people offer munajat seeking eternal peace of the departed souls at the site of the collapsed Rana Plaza at Savar yesterday. Photo: Rashed Shumon
Garment makers yesterday praised top retailers' pledge to improve safety standards at Bangladesh factories as two more global brands joined in.
Marks & Spencer and Tesco were the latest two British retailers to sign the building and fire safety accord already backed by six other big buyers.
In a landmark move on Monday, H&M, Inditex, the Netherlands' C&A, UK's Primark, PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein; and German retailer Tchibo signed a far-reaching and legally binding plan that requires them to help finance fire safety and building improvements in the factories they use in Bangladesh.
But two US retail giants -- Wal-Mart and GAP -- are yet to sign the accord.
The move will boost the image of the sector and pressure garment makers to comply with safety standards in business, said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the garment makers' platform.
"Obviously, I welcome the move as the sector will be immensely benefited" and it will end frequent accidents at garment units, he said.
The retailers' move will also drive out sub-standard and non-compliant factories, according to stakeholders of the sector.
The initiative came three weeks after the collapse of the nine-storey Rana Plaza, which killed 1,127 workers.
In a statement, Krishan Hundal, director of sourcing at Marks & Spencer, said, "We have a proven track record in Bangladesh; we believe our approach works and all our suppliers must adhere to our strict ethical standards as a condition of working with us.
"This includes regular fire, health and safety checks and we only source from single occupancy factories."
Regarding the safety measures, the retailers are scheduled to publish a document today in Germany, which, they said, would create pressure on other retailers to do likewise.
The retailers called for an agreement for independent, rigorous factory safety inspections with public reports and mandatory repairs and renovations underwritten by them.
"In fact, if any garment maker follows the government-made rules properly, he does not need the retailers' assistance for enhancing compliance," said David Hasanat, managing director of Viyellatex Group.
It needs a plan of at least six years to get a complete safety solution in the garment sector, said Annisul Huq, a former BGMEA president.
The retailers should work in coordination with the government, BGMEA and garment makers, he said, adding, "Otherwise, there is a chance of double administration, which might rather create trouble."
If the government, buyers and garment makers work together and find out a concrete solution, "I hope the garment business will be sustainable," said immediate past BGMEA president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin.
Li & Fung Ltd, supplier of dozens of major retailers, including Wal-Mart, said it continued to ruminate on the European pact, but declined to give details, according to Reuters.
Wal-Mart, meanwhile, has called on Bangladesh to stop production at one factory and inspect another where it spotted safety risks during its own checks, said Reuters.