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Sen. Levin to Visit Bangladesh Factories

Bangladesh continues to draw international attention following the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse which killed more than 1,100 workers. Rep. Sandy Levin just announced he plans to visit Bangladesh this week for three days in order to evaluate international efforts to improve factory working conditions and building safety.

Recently, Levin has become an outspoken champion of aggressive reforms in Bangladesh, and an unrelenting critic of the country’s laggard pace in making improvements. He has openly pressured US retailers to join the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, a consortia of eighty predominately European companies organized into action by IndustriALL Global Union.

Two competing groups of retailers who outsource apparel production to factories in Bangladesh have materialized to supervise desperately needed reforms and finance expensive factory improvements. The EU led Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (AFBSB) has plans to inspect the approximately 1,000 factories that directly supply them with garments while the US brokered Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety intends to cover another 500.

Levin has been critical of the US led accord, lambasting it for general ineffectiveness, a lack of stalwart commitment and its non-binding character. American retailers have responded that while Europe may be facilitating the inspection of 1,000 factories, Bangladesh has nearly five times as many. The AFBSB justifies its limited reach, while denouncing the US for theirs, by claiming that they cover all the factories they contract business with, happily discharging their responsibility. Problematically, much of the garment production done in Bangladesh is subcontracted to smaller, virtually unregulated, and even more hazardous factories. Rep. Levin’s position on the issue of subcontracting remains unstated.

On Monday, Levin lands in Dhaka and plans to make the rounds, visiting factories, meeting with both workers and factory owners and several prominent governmental officials. He plans to spend three days in Bangladesh.