Three Australian retailers yet to sign Bangladesh safety accord

Three Australian retailers using Bangladeshi workers to manufacture clothing have not yet signed a safety accord regarding garment factories in that country. reports that Coles (a Wesfarmers brand), Big W, and Rivers are the Australian retailers who have yet to commit to the accord.

Cotton On and Forever New, as well as two other Wesfarmers brands, Kmart and Target have signed the accord.

The push for improved safety and better working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment manufacturing sector follows the April collapse of a garment factory which killed 1,129 workers.

IndustriALL Global Union, a Geneva-based labour union is one of the organisations involved in the negotiations which led to the accord.

A Big W spokesman said that although the brand, owned by Woolworths, had not yet signed the accord it still had intentions to do so.

"We are in touch with IndustriALL regarding how it will be implemented," she said.

According to a Coles spokeswoman, the company is winding up contracts in Bangladesh and therefore had no need to sign the agreement.

"If we decide to source from Bangladesh in the future we will audit any factory we work with and we would sign the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord," she said.

As reports, 70 companies, including Swedish retailer H&M, Italian clothing maker Benetton and French retailer Carrefour have signed the accord.

Under the agreement, these companies will be obliged to pay administrative costs for the inspections, training and other programs. In addition, they will be responsible for ensuring that "sufficient funds are available to pay for renovations and other safety improvements."

Not many US companies have signed. Those that have include PVH Corp., the parent company of Tommy Hilfiger; and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Many US companies who didn’t sign said that they didn’t join the accord because it exposed them to unlimited liability.

Wal-Mart, Gap and other companies are developing an alternative plan. It is expected that details of this will be announced on Wednesday.