WASHINGTON — The Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum and United Students Against Sweatshops have launched a campaign and new Web site demanding that H&M address concerns about what they claim have been inadequate safety repairs in garment factories the retailer uses in Bangladesh.
The groups said they reviewed corrective action plans relating to 32 H&M “strategic” supplier factories this week and found that the majority of the factories still lack adequate fire exits.
The pressure comes nearly three years after the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in April 2013 that claimed the lives of 1,133 people and injured hundreds of others. It also follows on a report some of the same groups released in October, alleging that the core group of H&M’s 32 apparel supplier factories in Bangladesh had not met mandated deadlines for safety repairs, potentially endangering hundreds of workers.
H&M is a member of The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a consortium of 190 companies, including Carrefour, Inditex, Primark, C&A and Marks & Spencer, that was formed in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster to address and remediate major building, fire and electrical safety issues in the garment industry.
“H&M supplier factories are making renovations, but at a pace that is way too slow,” said Liana Foxvog, director of organizing and communications at the ILRF. “These factories are far behind deadline on essential repairs, which include installable fire-rated doors and enclosing stairwells, as well as removing locks from fire exit, which are all essential to the safety of the lives of workers in case of an emergency.”
Foxvog said the groups are focusing on H&M because it is the largest apparel buyer in Bangladesh, sourcing from 229 factories in the country.
“H&M is also the first company to sign the Bangladesh Accord,” Foxvog said. “Labor rights advocates very much applauded H&M in being a leader with regard to the initiative and the Accord, and we’re expecting them to also be a leader in upholding their commitment under the Accord as an example to encourage other companies to also keep with their commitments.”
H&M responded in an e-mailed statement about the new campaign launched against the company and the continuing allegations.
“It raises important issues that we are already working on,” an H&M spokeswoman said. “We are following the Accord remediation plan closely and we see good progress. To further speed up the remediation, we are working together with IndustriALL [Global Union] with full transparency to use our combined leverage where needed. We have long-term strategic partnerships with our business partners and will continue our support of them in improving and upgrading their production facilities to safer and higher international standards.”
The company said it is in close dialogue with its suppliers and is following up on the work that “remains to be done.”
“However, there has always been fire exits in our supply chain, it is one of the most fundamental requirements for a supplier in order to be allowed to produce for H&M,” she added.
The groups are planned protests at H&M stores and online across the country beginning on April 25, the three-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, and culminating on a Day of Action to coincide with H&M’s 2016 Annual meeting in Solna, Sweden, on May 3, the groups said.