The safety hazards exist in the factories that are stitching clothes for Walmart, Gap, VF Corporation, Target and Hudson’s Bay Company, and their European subsidiaries Asda, Galeria Kaufhof and Galeria Inno.
In summer 2013, these retailers joined the Alliance, a platform of North American buyers, to improve safety standards in the clothing industry and pledged to make their supplier factories in Bangladesh safe.
International Labor Rights Forum, Worker Rights Consortium, Clean Clothes Campaign, and Maquila Solidarity Network in its analysis titled “Dangerous Delays on Worker Safety” revealed considerable delays in repairing safety defects in factories supplying member companies of the Alliance.
The analysis was published on Monday.
“Walmart, Gap, VF, Target and Hudson’s Bay have failed to address deadly hazards in many factories, but Bangladesh alliance downplays the problem with rosy status reports,” the workers’ rights group said in the analysis.
Even more concerning is the fact that the Alliance overstates progress, saying many of the factories listed as “on track” on the Alliance website still face major safety hazards, the analysis found.
These rights groups made the analysis on 175 RMG factories which are covered by both the Accord and the Alliance and supply the five mentioned retailers.
As per the report, of the factories in the sample that the Alliance designates as “On Track”, 41% have uncorrected structural problems, 57% have compromised fire exits and 58% do not have a properly functioning fire alarm system.
It also stated that 62% still lack viable fire exits, 62% do not have a properly functioning fire alarm system and 47% have major uncorrected structural problems.
These brands, despite knowing these risks for a considerable time, have failed to make sure these factories are safe, the workers rights platform said.
The Alliance’s approach to reporting safety progress legitimately raises the question whether the Alliance is prioritising the protection of its member brands’ reputations over the protection of workers, it questioned.
While the Accord is a multi-stakeholder initiative with an important role for workers’ representatives and a high level of transparency, the Alliance is more similar to the pre-Rana Plaza models of corporate responsibility programmes. It is controlled entirely by the companies themselves and has limited and selective reporting, the independent analysis stated.
The detailed Accord inspection reports show that more than half of these factories, which were all first inspected over one and a half years ago, still do not have appropriate fire exits, lack an approved fire alarm system or have major structural problems, it added.
Sam Maher from Clean Clothes Campaign states: “As we have been forced to rely on reporting by the Accord for this recent assessment we can only judge progress in the limited group where both initiatives are playing a role in improving repairs.
“Because of the lack of transparency in the Alliance reporting we have no way of knowing if the risks are even more severe in those workplaces where no public scrutiny is possible.”
The Alliance should correct its false claims of progress and start providing detailed and accurate information concerning the status of each safety renovation in its factories in order to be able to start working on a safer Bangladeshi garment industry, the rights group suggested.
These hazards could prevent workers from escaping a potentially deadly fire or lead to injury or death as a result of structural failure of a factory building, it narrated.