Today, a new safety plan proposed and backed by Gap and Walmart was unveiled in the US in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in April which killed over 1,100 people, mainly female garment workers. The plan, called the “Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety” is proposed as an alternative to the Bangladesh Safety Accord – a comprehensive, legally binding, life saving agreement already signed by over 70 major brands and retailers.

Responding to today’s announcement, Murray Worthy, sweatshops campaigner at War on Want said:

“Gap and Walmart’s safety plan is a sham which won’t make factories safe and only serves to undermine the Bangladesh Safety Accord, already signed by over 70 major brands and retailers.

“Their plan is full of flaws; the results of the audits won’t be made public, so they can’t be verified, the plan isn’t legally binding, so there is not guarantee anything will actually change, and the plan excludes trade unions, the representatives of workers who need to be at the heart of any plan to make factories safe.

“This is just more of the same corporate-dominated voluntary measures that were so clearly proven to have failed in the Rana Plaza disaster, claiming the lives of over 1,100 people. Gap, Walmart and the other brands behind the Alliance must scrap this expensive PR stunt and join the rest of the clothing industry in signing the comprehensive, legally binding and life-saving Bangladesh Safety Accord.”

Key flaws of the plan include:

  • Details of audits will only be made available to a hand-picked NGO, rather than being made available for public scrutiny and verification
  • The Alliance describes itself as ‘binding’ but unlike the Accord it is not legally binding in court.
  • The Alliance requires two thirds of the board to support action against any member company for noncompliance, however with four of the nine board members being allocated to companies this would require half of them to vote in favour of taking action against other companies. By contrast the board of the Bangladesh Safety Accord is made up of half corporate members and half by trade unions and votes by simple majority.
  • The Alliance relies on ‘worker committees’ in factories, which undermine workers’ rights to join trade unions and do not fulfil workers’ right to organise, and totally excludes trade unions from the project.