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Retailing Giants Sign Bangladesh Fire and Safety Agreement

As rescue workers concluded their digging through the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza garment factory in which more than 1,100 workers were killed, two of the world’s  biggest apparel brands signed an agreement designed to end future such catastrophes.

The agreement is a legally binding, five-year contract in which signatories have committed to financing fire and safety improvements in the Bangladeshi factories which make their products.

Two giant apparel companies have already signed the agreement, international giants Inditex, the world’s largest clothing retailer, and Swedish fashion retailer H&M, although the latter did not have contracts with any of the factories destroyed in the collapse.

C & A of the Netherlands, and the UK’s Primark and Tesco have also signed.

More firms announced plans to sign the agreement, including PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Izod.

“We hope for a broad coalition of signatures in order for the agreement to work effectively on the ground,” said Helena Helmersson, head of H & M sustainability in a statement issued by the firm.

The accord came after almost a month of negotiations since the disaster on April 24, spurred by the International Labour Organization, trade unions and other labor advocates and lobbyists.

Major details of the agreement include a coordinated system of rigorous inspections, public reports, mandatory repairs and renovations, fire, safety and health training, financial support from the signers, and the right of workers to refuse dangerous work.

The agreement, officially titled, the Accord on Fore and Building Safety in Bangladesh,  would be required to work in conjunction with an action plan of the Bangladeshi government, trade unions and industry organizations, and would apply to all 5,000 of Bangladesh’s factories.

Wal-Mart and Gap Inc., have not announced their intention to sign the accord, but announced in 2012 that they’d run their own safety campaign.

After China, Bangladesh is the world’s biggest exporter of clothing.

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