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US companies to improve safety conditions of workers in B`desh

Last Updated: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 23:25

Washington: Major American retailers have agreed to work to improve the safety condition of workers in Bangladesh, a move which has been welcomed by lawmakers here.

Major US retailers like WalMart and Gap have agreed to implement a new programme to improve fire and safety regulations in Bangladesh`s factories.

The effort by retailers to improve safety at Bangladesh`s plants is being spearheaded by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a nonprofit Washington-based think tank.

The effort will be led by former Senators Olympia Snowe, a Republican, and George Mitchell, a Democrat, both from Maine. The center said the targeted release of the plan is by early July.

"The agreement by major US retailers to implement a new programme to improve fire and safety regulations in Bangladesh`s factories is welcome news, and we appreciate them listening to our demands," said Congresswoman Grace Meng, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"While we still need to see what the final plan will look like, this effort is a good first step. We hope that it will finally end the long greedy practice of US companies putting profits ahead of safety," she said.

"It is time for American retailers to finally take responsibility for the widespread problems that have long plagued the factories they use in Bangladesh, and we`ll be watching closely as the industry further develops this critical initiative," she added.

"It is essential that the final plan go far enough so that retailers are held accountable for the lives of those whose work provides their corporate profits. Anything less will be unacceptable," Meng said.

However, top American rights group and labor unions have opposed the plan.

AFL-CIO and ChangetoWin labor federations in a statement expressed its deep concern about Walmart and Gap`s plan to move forward with a corporate-controlled, nonbinding process for adopting building safety standards in Bangladesh.

"While former Senators George Mitchell and Olympia Snowe are both respected for their ability to forge compromises, we cannot afford to compromise the lives of Bangladeshi workers," they said in a joint statement.

"We are determined to get this process right, and we will express our concerns to both former Senators and ask that they not participate in undermining the ongoing and more productive process led by IndustriAll and UNI global labor federations," they said.

Forty retailers from all over the world, including H&M, PVH, and Loblaws, have agreed to a binding comprehensive safety plan for Bangladesh.

"No amount of bipartisan window dressing can change the fact that Walmart and the Gap have refused to take this important step. This is a matter of life or death. Quite simply, nonbinding is just not good enough," the statement said.


First Published: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 23:24
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