Usdaw urges retailers to sign the Bangladesh Accord to help prevent another Rana Plaza tragedy

Date: 09 September 2013 John Hannett, the leader of the shopworkers' Union Usdaw, has today met the President of the Bangladeshi National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF).

They both warned leading UK retailers that there could be a repeat of this year's Rana Plaza tragedy if they continue to refuse to sign up to an international accord designed to protect Bangladeshi factory workers.

Speaking at the Trade Union Congress in Bournemouth, John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary says: "On 24 April the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed and over 1,100 garment workers died. This was no accidental disaster. This was a direct result of greed and exploitation.

"In response, the trade Union movement stepped up the campaign to get retailers to sign up to the Bangladesh Accord, a legally binding agreement guaranteeing inspections of buildings and working conditions."

In the UK, a large number of clothing retailers signed the Accord, these include: Tesco, Sainsburys and Primark. However, some high profile international retailers are refusing to sign, instead pushing their own initiative which isn't legally binding and doesn't involve the trade Unions.

John Hannett continued: "The fact that we have a trade Union presence in key parts of the UK retail sector was an important lever to get retailers to sign up, but the key people who are delivering the Accord are the trade Unions in Bangladesh.

"It is a great honour for our Congress to have Amirul Haque Amin visiting this week. It demonstrates that trade Unionists working together internationally can deliver real change for workers on the ground.

"Some campaigners advocate consumer boycotts, but low wages and dangerous working conditions are not due to consumers in the West wanting cheaper clothes. We have shown that wages in Bangladesh clothing factories could be doubled and it would have little or no impact on prices in the shops. Consumer boycotts of cheap clothes will not benefit the garment factory workers."

Amirul Haque Amin - NGWF President, who addressed the TUC's annual Congress, says: "I am very disappointed that several leading UK retailers are still refusing to commit to this accord. This historic agreement ensures that thousands of factories will have compulsory building inspections for the first time ever.

"Voluntary initiatives have failed to protect workers and if companies in the UK refuse to sign we risk a Repeat of the Rana Plaza tragedy. It is essential that companies take more responsibility for the way in which their suppliers treat their employees."

Trade Unionists and shoppers can play their part in the campaign by visiting http://action.goingtowork.org.uk/bangladeshaccord and write directly to the companies asking them to support strengthening health and safety protection for Bangladeshi textile workers.

For more photos visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/62535362@N04/sets/72157635446010679/

Notes for editors:

Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and fastest growing Trade Union with over 434,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

John Hannett and Amril Haque Amin (President of the Bangladesh National Garment Workers Federation) speaking about the Rana Plaza disaster at TUC 2013 in Bournemouth: http://youtu.be/iQTyFHLBjhc

For Usdaw press releases visit: www.usdaw.org.uk/news

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