The Synod of Victoria and Tasmania and other non-profit organisations have called on Australian fashion brands to sign a critical safety accord on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse.
The collapse claimed the lives of more than 1100 workers in Bangladesh and led to a global campaign to prevent a repeat.
The 2013 Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord, signed by more than 200 brands and retailers, has allowed independent safety inspections to be conducted in more than 1600 factories.
The accord expires next month and a number of prominent Australian clothing brands have yet to sign the 2018 accord.
In a joint statement, 13 Australian organisations including the synod, Oxfam Australia, Stop the Traffik and the CFMEU urged those brands that have “stubbornly and shamefully refused” to sign the accord to “live up to their responsibilities”.
Oxfam Australia CEO Dr Helen Szoke said the accord is crucial to improving safety standards in the garment industry.
“Signing the Accord is about ensuring the absolute basics in the rights of more than two million garment workers – more than 70 per cent of whom are women – in Bangladesh,” Dr Szoke said.
“While safety concerns persist in some Bangladesh garment factories, the Accord has had a real impact. This is just one step in tackling the appalling treatment of workers, with a growing call for increased transparency and the payment of living wages to allow them to break the cycle of poverty.”
Michele O’Neil, from the textile, clothing and footwear sector of the CFMEU, said workers should not have to risk their life making clothes.
“Brands have a responsibility for the whole of their supply chain, including the conditions of the workers whose labour they rely on,” Ms O’Neil said.
“There is no justifiable basis for Australian brands sourcing from Bangladesh to refuse to become a signatory to this Accord.”
Many iconic Australian brands – including Kmart, Target, Big W, Cotton On, Forever New and Specialty Fashion Group (Katies, Millers, City Chic and Rivers) have already signed the new accord.
But other brands that were signatories of the previous accord, including Noni-B, Workwear Group and Licensing Essentials, have yet to join the 2018 agreement.
A number of well-known Australian brands such as the Just Group (Just Jeans, Peter Alexander), Best and Less, Myer, Fast Future (Valley Girl, TEMT) and Country Road have failed to sign either accord.