Specialty Fashion Group (Millers, Katies, Crossroads, Autograph and City Chic) is the latest Australian company to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord. The Accord has been developed by local and global unions and labour rights organisations.
Specialty Fashion Group signed after being targeted for community action, including letters from Uniting Church members and moderator Dan Wootton. More than 80 companies globally have now signed up to the Accord.
In Australia, Woolworths, Best and Less, Rivers and The Just Group (which includes Just Jeans, Portmans, Jay Jays, Jacqui E, Peter Alexander, Dotti, and Smiggle) have not yet signed, despite sourcing clothing from Bangladesh.
The synod Justice and International Mission Unit, Commission for Mission, has put together a postcard for people to sign asking that The Just Group sign up to the Accord.
The April collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh resulted in the deaths of more than 1100 people. These workers were denied their right to refuse dangerous work: they were told they would lose a month’s pay if they didn’t report to work the day after cracks appeared in the walls.
There are estimated to be approximately 4000 garment factories in Bangladesh.
An inspection of 200 factories in Bangladesh by the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology found that around 20 were so dangerous they were ordered to be shut. The engineers found huge numbers of the factories were housed in buildings not designed to withstand the vibrations and heavy loads of industrial use.
A building approved for only six stories had been expanded to ten.
Support columns that were supposed to contain five steel bars inside them had only two. Some of the buildings had structural cracks that threatened their integrity.
On one building, the engineers found structural cracks on two columns and a heavy power generator located on the roof, where the vibrations could compromise the building’s safety. They recommended sealing all the floors above the ground floor pending a more thorough assessment.
The engineers told the building owners it would be safer to just demolish the building and start over.