Fire protection agreement, a.k.a “Memorandum of Understanding on fire safety in Bangladesh between PVH and labor rights organizations and unions in Bangladesh and internationally,” a voluntary agreement to ensure safer textile factories in Bangladesh that presumably could be applied in other exporting countries if it proves effective. This is especially relevant after recent deadly fires in Bangladeshi factories. ZDF heute journal reports that though the US corporation PVH has taken the praiseworthy step of negotiating this fire safety agreement, its provisions will only come into effect after least three other major outsourcing corporations have signed it. Of the largest companies that import clothing into Europe and Germany, the industry leaders Zara and H&M have already rejected the agreement, while C&A reports they are planning to discuss it at least. The German company Tchibo agreed to sign on last September.

German union ver.di reports that this fire safety agreement is for a two-year program that includes training in fire safety, the formation of working committees in the companies’ factories and “a comprehensive independent control/inspection system,” in which employees and their unions can be actively involved.

PVH describes key points in its agreement as follows:

“This fire safety agreement is groundbreaking, because:
“1) It is not a verbal promise, or a voluntary initiative, but a legally binding contract between PVH – and any other brands that join – and worker representatives.
“2) It will, for the first time, allow fire safety inspections led by people outside the apparel industry, with inspection reports made public.
“3) Under the agreement, the brands will require all of their suppliers in Bangladesh to open themselves to inspection, and, most importantly, to eliminate any fire hazards the inspections uncover and make their factories safe. Brands cannot continue doing business with any supplier that refuses to make necessary repairs. Also, under the agreement, the brands are committed to pay prices to suppliers that make it feasible for the suppliers to make the necessary repairs.
“4) Under the agreement, brands must require suppliers to accept worker-led health and safety committees in every factory, so that workers will play a direct role in protecting themselves and their fellow workers.
“The goal now is to convince more brands and retailers to accept the obligations of this program so that it can be fully implemented and begin to transform the apparel industry in Bangladesh from the most dangerous in the world for workers to an industry that is fundamentally safe. Without additional brands, the program cannot be implemented.”

(BROND shoots ob come en.)

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