Bangladeshi garment workers

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2013 National Delegate Conference
23 May 2013

Conference shares the shock and horror felt around the work at the death of over 1,000 mainly female garment workers in the collapse of a factory building in Rana Plaza, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Dangerous working conditions are endemic in the garment industry in Bangladesh and deaths are shamefully all too common. The scale of this tragedy has however forced the world to take note and to support the demands of Bangladeshi workers and their trade unions for change.

Many major UK high street brands and global clothing retailers such as Primark, Gap, and many others source clothing from Bangladesh and they bear a major responsibility for the conditions and safety of the workers making the clothing form which they profit.

We reject the argument that the cause of the poor conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers is the demand for cheap clothing. Labour costs in Bangladesh are a tiny fraction of the cost of clothing. Securing decent conditions for garment workers is easily affordable for the big clothing retailers.

Conference welcomes the Bangladesh Safety Accord. This is a landmark project, bringing together brands, supplier factories, trade unions and NGOs to end the appallingly unsafe factory conditions and ensure decent working conditions. The heart of the agreement is the commitment by companies to pay for the renovations and repairs necessary to make factory building in Bangladesh safe. This agreement will save lives.

Crucially the Bangladesh Safety Accord differs from company codes of conducts and other voluntary initiatives in that the agreement is transparent, enforceable, legally binding and ensures meaningful representation of workers and trade unions. Crucially the agreement forces brands to accept responsibility for the safety of the workers who make their clothes.

We welcome the fact that at the deadline date of 15 May 2013 a number of major retailers including Primark, Mango, Tesco and Sainsburys had signed up to the accord but that others including Gap and Asda Walmart had not.

We resolve to work all those organisations, such as war on Want in the UK, who are calling on all major clothing retailers to sign the accord.

We further resolve to send a message of support to the National Garment Workers Federation in Bangladesh and call on the National Executive Council to make a suitable donation to support the work of the independent unions in Bangladesh.