Bangladeshi garment workers knew they were walking into a death trap -- a five-story crack had opened up the day before in the building that housed the factories they worked in. The retail workers on the bottom floors were sent home because the building was unsafe, but the owner of the Bangladeshi factory making Joe Fresh clothing threatened to withhold a month’s wages from the garment workers on the top floors if they refused to enter the building and work.
An hour into their 14-hour work day, the building collapsed. Now 700 are dead, and the death toll is still rising.
A number of notable companies, from Benetton to Children’s Place, had garments made in the building’s factories -- but only Loblaw, owner of the Joe Fresh brand, has stepped forward and called for the entire industry to change in the wake of this tragedy. If Loblaw is serious about change -- and we suspect it is -- then it needs to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, a legally-binding agreement that would require brands to pay a few pennies more per garment to fund building improvements that would prevent future tragedies from happening.
Tell Loblaw to put its money where its mouth is and sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement.
Under the current system, factory owners are tipped off that an inspection will occur and take precautions to circumvent the inspection. If Joe Fresh signs the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, it would agree to allow independent monitoring of its suppliers factories. It's this sort of inspection system that would have identified the collapsed building as unsafe.
The agreement also requires brands to fund basic safety necessities like fire escapes, fire extinguishers and safe electrical wiring. These were not in place last November when 112 workers died in a massive factory fire that made clothes for Walmart and other brands. Since then, members of the SumOfUs.org community have been challenging Walmart to sign the agreement that PVH (owner of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) and German retailer Tchibo have already agreed to.
On May Day, Bangladeshi workers marched through central Dhaka to demand safety at work. Many more are refusing to return to unsafe working conditions. A local of the largest retail union in Canada representing Loblaw’s workers, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, are standing in solidarity with Bangladeshi workers, and have committed to pressuring Loblaw’s management until significant changes are made to working conditions, hours, wages, and rest periods in Joe Fresh factories.
It’s time for Loblaw to join the companies that recognize that its customers care how it treats workers in its factories abroad and sign the agreement now, before the next tragedy occurs.
Tell Loblaw: Bangladeshi workers making Joe Fresh products need safe working conditions. Sign the agreement that could have saved 700 lives.
Thanks for joining our call to push Loblaw to go all the way and sign this life-saving agreement.
Bangladesh building collapse death toll surpasses 500, CBC, May 3, 2013.