Last week, almost 100 US and European companies made groundbreaking announcements about their efforts to improve working conditions in Bangladesh over the next five years. This was big news in the US, but hardly registered in Dhaka, where I was doing a fact-finding trip examining workplace safety in the garment sector. This disconnect is troubling and must be overcome if the efforts to improve factory safety and working conditions are to be successful.
There are two foreign plans to enhance working conditions in Bangladesh, both of which made major announcements last week. On July 8, the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh announced a five-year implementation plan, to which 81 brands—most based in Europe—have signed on.
On July 10, American brands, led by Wal-Mart and Gap, created the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Like the Accord, the Alliance adopts a collective workplace safety standard and auditing plan and makes funds available for remediation of safety threats. Together, the plans encompass financial commitments of almost $250 million, plus up to an additional $100 million in low-cost loans to help pay for building upgrades.
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