Monday, April 29, 2013

Labour rights group calls for action by Loblaw Companies and other retailers to prevent more factory tragedies

The Toronto-based Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) is calling on Loblaw Companies Ltd (owner of the Joe Fresh label) and other Canadian retailers to take a series of steps to compensate the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, prevent similar man-made disasters from happening in the future, and provide consumers more information on their factory auditing programs.
The call for action comes as Loblaw, other Canadian retailers and the Retail Council of Canada prepare to meet today in Toronto to discuss how to respond to the latest tragedy in the Bangladesh garment industry.  
Although Joe Fresh is the only Canadian brand that has acknowledged sourcing clothes from factories in the building, a website for the Ether Tex factory identified Wal-Mart Canada, Fairweather Ltd., and Atlantic Sportswear as customers. Another factory website identified the Montreal makers of UFO Jeans as a client.
MSN is joining with other labour rights and trade union organizations in Bangladesh and internationally in urging Loblaw and other retailers and brands that were sourcing from one or more of the five factories destroyed in the building collapse to negotiate with Bangladeshi trade union federations for just compensation for the hundreds of injured workers and the families of the more than 370 workers who died in the collapse. With over 900 workers still missing, the number of dead and injured will no doubt grow as the week progresses.
MSN is also calling on all Canadian retailers and brands sourcing apparel products from Bangladesh to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, which has already been signed by two major retailers, PVH (owners of the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein labels) and German retailer Tchibo.
That agreement provides for independent factory inspections, public disclosure of the lists of garment factories being inspected and of those that fail to fix problems identified, safety training for workers and management personnel, functioning worker/management health and safety committees, and the right of workers to file complaints and to refuse unsafe work.
Lastly, MSN is calling on Loblaw and other companies sourcing from Bangladesh to disclose their factory audit reports, including corrective action proposed and taken, for all their supplier factories in Bangladesh so that consumers and labour rights groups can evaluate the quality of the audits and track whether progress is being made on workplace safety and other issues.
“The underlying problems that caused this and other preventable tragedies in Bangladeshi garment factories will not be solved by more of the same factory audits and certifications by private sector auditing firms with no information made available to the public,” says MSN’s Director of Advocacy Kevin Thomas. “What we need is a comprehensive program of independent inspections in which workers have an informed and active role and consumers are fully informed of the results.”
“We were pleased to learn that a senior Loblaw representative will be travelling to Bangladesh to access the situation on the ground,” says Thomas. “We hope that prior to that visit the company will make a public commitment to providing just compensation for the victims of the building collapse and to seriously tackle the underlying causes of these recurring and preventable tragedies by joining the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety program.”
For further information, contact:
Kevin Thomas, Maquila Solidarity Network
Office: 416-532-8584
Mobile: 416-992-5392

More information on the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement is available at:

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