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New Bangladesh factory safety accord comes in for criticism

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Labour groups claim that a plan to improve factory safety conditions in Bangladesh garment factories does not do enough to improve the conditions of the industry's workforce

As the New York Times reports, ‘The Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative’ commits $42 million for worker safety. This includes factory inspections and an anonymous hot line for workers to report unsafe conditions. 

In addition, the plan offers over $100 million in loans and other financing to help Bangladeshi factory owners correct safety problems. 
The announcement is part of an international push for improved safety and better working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment manufacturing. It follows the April collapse of a garment factory which killed 1,129 workers.

The accord has been presented as an alternative to the accord which was signed earlier this week by a group of 70 retailers. The group was made up of mainly European retailers but also included some Australian companies.

However, the American plan has come under criticism from Labour groups who say that it would cost as much as $3 billion to make Bangladesh’s garment safe.

Also, unlike this first accord, the American plan lacks legally binding commitments to pay for those improvements.

And the North American retailers are not promising to finance needed improvements, outside of the loans. If a factory does not meet the required standards, they will not fix the problems and continue to operate. They will simply discontinue doing business there.

The Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative was developed over the past five weeks under the guidance of former U.S. Senators George J. Mitchell and Olympia Snowe, acting as independent facilitators at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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