WASHINGTON — Puma has agreed to sign the binding, international Bangladesh fire and safety agreement, bringing the total number of companies that have signed the accord to 42, according to the Worker Rights Consortium.
Thirty-eight major European retailers and brands, including H&M, Benetton, Inditex, C&A, Primark, Carrefour and Marks & Spencer have now signed the accord. Three U.S. companies, PVH Corp., Abercrombie & Fitch and Sean John have also signed the agreement, in addition to Canada’s Loblaw Cos., owner of the Joe Fresh brand.
Divisions have grown in the international apparel manufacturing sector over which path to take to improve fire and safety regulations in Bangladesh after the Rana Plaza building collapse in April that killed 1,127 workers.
The German sports apparel and footwear company’s move came as a group of major retailers led by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Gap Inc. joined together to formulate their own, separate fire and safety action plan for Bangladesh’s garment industry.
The agreement led by IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Glboal Union requires that companies mandate and pay for renovation and repairs to ensure factories in Bangladesh are made safe. The pact is a legally enforceable contract between companies and unions that will use binding arbitration to resolve disputes. It stipulates that companies will agree to independent safety inspections with public reports; mandatory repairs and renovations ensuring factories have the money to pay for all repairs, renovations and retrofitting by raising prices or paying for renovations directly; require factory owners that are considered top-tier suppliers to a brand or retailer to allow union representatives to have regular access to their factories, and terminate business with any factory that refuses to make necessary safety upgrades. It also requires “a vital role” for workers and their unions, requiring the establishment of health and safety committees in all covered factories, with worker representatives making up at least 50 percent of the membership.