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‘Bangladesh worker deaths may change US buying’
Tribune Online Report

Since the collapse, companies that buy clothes made by factories in Bangladesh have announced plans to improve safety

  • A group of retailers comprising mostly European chains, including Hennes & Mauritz AB and Inditex SA, pledged $60 million over five years to increase monitoring of conditions 
    Photo- Bloomberg

About 70% of Americans have heard of the Rana Plaza collapse in Savar that killed more than 1,100 people, and for some it means they will probably buy fewer goods made in the country, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

Among those who learned of the deaths, 39% said they would probably buy fewer products produced in the country, according to a survey by Harris Poll of more than 2,000 adults from May 14 to 16. Women are more likely to change shopping habits than men, 42% to 34%, the poll report showed.

The Rana Plaza, an eight-story building  that housed five garment factories, collapsed on April 24, killing at least 1,127 people. As rescuers searched for survivors in the following weeks the rising death toll brought increased media coverage. The incident, which is the second deadliest industrial accidents in the world, has prompted more calls for reform in Bangladesh after a fire in an apparel factory killed 112 people in November.

Apparel accounts for 80% of the country’s exports and employs about 3.4 million people. As wages rose in other apparel-producing countries such as China, companies have turned to the cheaper labour in Bangladesh.

Since the collapse, companies that buy clothes made by factories in Bangladesh have announced plans to improve safety. A group of retailers comprising mostly European chains, including Hennes & Mauritz AB (HMB) and Inditex SA (ITX), pledged $60 million over five years to increase monitoring of conditions.

Wal-Mart, Gap

Several US chains, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Gap Inc, didn’t sign the agreement. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, will instead make public the safety inspections of its 279 authorised suppliers in Bangladesh that are to be completed in the next six months. Gap has said it is “ready to sign,” pending a change to the provision regarding binding arbitration.

Workers there have also been protesting as they demand higher wages. The government has said it’s considering raising the minimum wage of about $39 a month.

The poll also asked respondents if they looked at labels to find out where a garment was made before purchasing, and 44% said they did. Americans older than 55 had the highest probability to do so at 53%. And while just 49% of respondents aged 18 to 34 had heard of the collapse, 86% of those aged 55 of higher knew.

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