Since the Rana Plaza tragedy in April, the United States Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel (USA-ITA) has been focused on what we, our member companies, and other industry organizations can do both immediately and in the long term to ensure the safety of workers in factories in Bangladesh, and throughout the supply chain.
USA-ITA has long been committed to improving labor conditions in Bangladesh, and our member companies are industry leaders when it comes to creating sustainable and safe working conditions in the countries in which they source. In Bangladesh, we have actively advocated for fair labor practices and educated brands and retailers, as well as Bangladeshi stakeholders, about the importance of fire safety training in particular. It’s clear, however, that the issues in Bangladesh go far beyond fire safety.
Over the past week, we have spent significant time collaborating with the North American Bangladesh Worker Safety Working Group, a coalition comprised of six U.S. and Canadian retail and apparel industry trade groups. The working group has met with the U.S. and Bangladesh government, U.S. brands and retailers, and global labor and human rights advocacy groups, including IndustriALL, to discuss various next steps.
We all know that our member companies are already working to ensure worker safety in Bangladesh and throughout the supply chain. However, there is now pressure for companies to be more vocal about their efforts, and in particular, to sign binding agreements such as the Accord on Fire & Building Safety promoted by IndustriALL, as well as the Safer Factories Initiative put forward last week by our working group.
USA-ITA knows that our diverse member companies have different ideas about what to do next with regards to Bangladesh. Some of our member companies, including PVH and H&M, were among the first companies to sign the Accord on Fire & Building Safety. Others have been instrumental in the development of the Safer Factories Initiative given their legal concerns with the accord, while still others are focused on improvements in their own, internal action plans. We want our members to know that we support any and all efforts to improve worker safety in Bangladesh—whether you work within your organization, sign the Accord on Fire & Building Safety, join the Safer Factories Initiative, or perhaps all three. It is our belief that these options, particularly the Accord on Fire & Building Safety and the Safer Factories Initiative, need not be opposing agreements and we support member companies that might like to join both. We have our concerns about the Accord on Fire & Building Safety, which is why we chose to join the Safer Factories Initiative, but we likewise applaud our members who think signing the accord is the best decision for their company.
USA-ITA remains committed to the safety of the workers in the factories from which our members source, and we’re here to help you make the right decisions for your company with regards to Bangladesh. Please let us know if we can provide any information to help you as we work together to create better working conditions in Bangladesh.