last modified 02-04-2019 09:07

Government of Bangladesh not ready to take over Accord’s safety work

published 02-04-2019 06:35, last modified 02-04-2019 09:53
The government of Bangladesh is using proceedings before the Supreme Court of Bangladesh to prevent the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, the safety programme established in the aftermath ofthe Rana Plaza collapse, from operating, thereby putting workers’ safety at risk. A ruling on 7 April in Bangladesh’s Appellate Court could require the Accord to close its Dhaka office and operations without taking into account whether national agencies would be ready to take up the work.
Government of Bangladesh not ready to take over Accord’s safety work

Workers are speaking up for the Accord - photo: Kristof Vadino

The government’s justification for trying to end the Accord’s work depends entirely on its claim that the government is ready to assume responsibility for the 1,688 factories under the Accord’s purview, but research published today by the Accord’s NGO witness signatories – Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Maquila Solidarity Network, and Worker Rights Consortium – shows a shocking level of unreadiness, as also reported in the Guardian yesterday. In particular, we find that:

  • The two government-run databases intended to provide information on the remediation of garment factories are inconsistent and fail to provide information on follow-up inspections.

  • Each of the 745 factories under the government’s inspection programme have yet to eliminate high risk safety hazards, all of which were identified between three and five years ago. High risk hazards include, for example, lockable exit ways which, in the event of a fire, could leave workers trapped inside. Many high risk hazards should – and could – have been eliminated immediately after being identified.

  • The government has the power to shut down factories that are deemed so dangerous that workers’ immediate safety is at risk. As is widely recognized, had the government utilized this power when cracks at Rana Plaza were identified to them just days before the collapse in 2013, thousands of lives would have been saved. The Accord identified 114 such critically unsafe factories, which it subsequently terminated from its inspection program. Today, half of these same facilities remain open under the government’s inspection program. There is no indication in the government’s own records that any safety improvements have been made to these factories.

  • The government claims to have received 18 complaints through its complaint mechanism since 2013. The Accord, on the other hand, received 1,152 complaints in that same time period. The stark difference in the use of each complaint mechanism could be attributed, in part, to the fact that the government does not guarantee workers anonymity when they file complaints through its mechanism.

  • In multiple public forums, the government has stated that 29% of all required renovations at the factories under its purview have been completed. A closer look at the government’s own data proves that this is a gross overstatement of the facts. 346 of the 400 factories (for which there is available information) have completed less than 20% of all required safety renovations. Only two factories have completed between 21 and 40% of remediation. There is no information on the remaining 52 factories. By contrast, 89% of renovations required at all factories covered by the Accord have been completed.

Both the brand and labour signatories of the 2018 Transition Accord are committed to transfer the inspection and remediation work once a credible national regulatory agency is in place. Currently, international stakeholders across the board agree that Bangladesh’s national inspection agencies do not yet meet the expected standard when it comes to transparency, monitoring, or enforcement. The government’s inspection agencies lag far behind in completing the remediation work at garment factories producing for non-Accord brands, or for the domestic market. The government of Bangladesh, however, is asserting that its inspection bodies are ready to take over the work and the Accord is no longer needed and is pushing for a swift transfer of not only the inspection and remediation work, but also of the safety complaints process and the safety training programmes carried out by the Accord and has refused to discuss a conditional process based on an evaluation of readiness criteria.

Signatory brands are speaking up not to transition any tasks from the Accord to national inspection agencies until it is fully clear that the latter are up for the task. Clean Clothes Campaign is collecting these statements on behalf of all witness signatories here.

Former Uniqlo garment workers attend flagship store opening in Denmark to highlight Uniqlo’s wage-theft

published 02-04-2019 09:10, last modified 17-04-2019 13:06
Between 2 and 7 April, two Indonesian garment factory workers, who made Uniqlo clothing for years, will be in Copenhagen as part of the global PayUp Uniqlo campaign. They demand that the brand fulfills the debt owed to workers following the unexpected closure of their factory in 2015. The workers’ visit coincides with the opening of the first Uniqlo store in Denmark on April 5th where CEO Tadashi Yanai is expected to attend.

Supporters are asked to leave message on Uniqlo's facebook page. Evidence retrieved from the factory confirms that Uniqlo was a major buyer of the Jaba Garmindo factory in Indonesia, which closed shortly after the brand began pulling orders with no warning or explanation to the workers. The founder and CEO of Uniqlo’s parent company, Tadashi Yanai, has an estimated net worth of $19.3 billion, making him the second-richest man in Japan. Uniqlo now generates billions of dollars in profits for its shareholders, but yet continues to refuse to pay the small pittance that is owed to the former Jaba Garmindo workers, many now destitute and living in extreme poverty. More information an be found on the Pay Up Uniqlo campaign page.

Supported by a global coalition of labour groups, the former Jaba Garmindo workers have campaigned against Uniqlo’s wage theft, since the closure of their factory. 2000 workers who sewed a variety of Uniqlo clothes including sweaters and vest are still owed 40 million kroner (5.5 M EUR) in severance. Wage theft has become standard operating procedure in the garment industry. Brands do not pay enough for their products to ensure workers receive living wages and mandated severance, leaving workers with nothing when factories close, often unexpectedly and with little notice, such as the case of the Jaba Garmindo factory.

Uniqlo’s sponsorships, such as with Dfunk in Copenhagen, are increasingly under scrutiny, as the brand seeks to build a positive image that can beguile consumers, while obfuscating labour abuses in their supply chain. The PayUp Uniqlo Campaign is urging institutions and organisations to refuse any form of collaboration or sponsorship with Uniqlo until the brand commits to end its wage theft practices, beginning with fulfilling the debt owed to the former Jaba Garmindo workers. Earlier this month a Spanish NGO refused a Uniqlo sponsorship citing that it would violate the organisation’s ethics policy due to the wage-theft against the former Jaba Garmindo workers.

The global PayUp Uniqlo Campaign has organised a range of actions around the world including fashion mobs, store actions and street demo’s in London, Germany, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Spain, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan.

You can also leave a message and join the campaign in support of Warni and Yayat.


Tell UNIQLO: pay the debt owed to workers who made your clothes

The CEO of Uniqlo wants the world to believe that his clothing brand UNIQLO is different from most global fashion brands - that UNIQLO is special, unique, and sustainable. But how can you be sustainable if you don't pay the people making your clothes?

Uniqlo is refusing to pay workers who made their clothes in Indonesia after the sudden closure of their factory.

This week the CEO is opening his next store in Copenhagen and two workers, who made Uniqlo clothes for years, will be there. We support them, will you join us and show Uniqlo that you can't call yourself 'green' if you don't take care of the people making your beautiul clothes?

Write to Uniqlo here and tell the CEO Tadashi Yanai that he can take his responsibility and pay the debt he owes the workers.

In 2014, Uniqlo and other major buyers withdrew orders from the Jaba Garmindo factory, without warning or explanation to the thousands of workers employed there. Just months after Uniqlo’s orders ended the factory fell into bankruptcy and the workers at the Jaba Garmindo factory - 80% of whom are women - went from having a reliable source of income to being left jobless and fighting for their livelihoods. Even worse, the money they are legally owed in unpaid wages and severance pay – amounting to at least $5.5 million USD - continues to be denied to them. These workers earned this money over many years of working long hours to produce clothes for Uniqlo and other brands. Some women worked for over a decade at the factory. To deny them their payment now is tantamount to wage theft.

Uniqlo is one of the fastest growing clothing brands in the world, generating billions of dollars in profits for its shareholders and owners and opening big stores around the world. Uniqlo’s founder and CEO, Tadashi Yanai, has built up his own personal wealth to an estimated $16 billion, making him the second richest man in Japan and among the richest in the world. Uniqlo can easily pay off the debt to these workers – workers whose labour helped build this fortune.

Write to Uniqlo here and tell the CEO Tadashi Yanai that he can take his responsibility and pay the debt he owes them.

The Jaba Garmindo workers have been fighting tirelessly and courageously over the past 3 years and now want our support in their fight against Uniqlo’s wage theft.

"Contribute to society' is part of the Yanai doctrine. But that is clearly not what the CEO is doing.

Previously the women, supported by international NGO's and workers coalitions worldwide, have pressed Uniqlo to live up to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which clearly state that it is the responsibility of internationally operating companies to ensure that human rights are respected throughout their supply chains. 

Many of UNIQLO’s closest competitors have taken such action in similar cases. Nike, adidas, Disney, Fruit of the Loom, Hanesbrands, H&M, and Walmart have all taken active steps to ensure that workers received wages and severance payments owed when supplier factories went bankrupt, by either directly provided the funds owed to workers themselves, or pressing their supply chain partners (factory owners, buying agents, etc.) to do so, so that the workers received the sums that they were due under law. It took these brands years to contribute, and only after severe public pressure from the workers and consumers. Tell Uniqlo to stop dragging on the struggle of the women, tell them to pay what they owe. 

Write to Uniqlo here and tell the CEO Tadashi Yanai that he can take his responsibility and pay the debt he owes them.