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Representatives of Bangladesh Government, Employers and Labor Groups Meet To Develop New Fire Prevention and Safety Programs

In a joint government-labor-industry effort to prevent factory fires which have taken a heavy death toll on Bangladesh workers, the country’s Ministry of Labour and Employment, the International Labour Organization, and representatives of industry met recently to develop, promote and implement fire safety programs.

Since 2005 more than 700 Bangladesh workers have died in factory fires, according to the International Labor Rights Forum, a U.S. advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The Tazreen Fashion Ltd garment factory fire of last November 24-25 killed more than 100 workers. The factory reportedly made clothes for Sears Holdings Corp and Wal-Mart, among others.

As a result of the day-long meeting, a tripartite statement of commitment to the fire prevention effort was adopted and plans were agreed upon to create a workable plan by the end of February, 2013.

The new program, the National Tripartite Action Plan on Fire Safety, will take, “…comprehensive action aimed at preventing any further loss of life, limb and property due to work place fires and fire-related accidents and incidents, according to a jointly-issued statement from meeting participants.

Earlier in 2012, PVH Corp. (PVH), owners of Tommy Hilfiger signed a memorandum of agreement saying the firm would pay Bangladesh manufacturing prices sufficient to cover safety improvement costs. Wal-Mart declined to sign the agreement, and Gap, Inc., was negotiating the details and has yet to sign.

Some 4,500 Bangladesh factories would be covered by terms of the agreement, and many would require costly renovations to comply with the regulations. A report from Gap and Wal-Mart pertaining to the issue, said “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.”

It was not immediately known if the new tripartite measure would supervene the previous memorandum of intent, the earlier document a reportedly contractually enforceable agreement.