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Kmart’s turnaround on Bangladesh safety welcomed

Date of Release: 
Friday, June 7, 2013

The union representing retail and clothing workers in New Zealand has welcomed Kmart’s decision to now support a global accord on safety for Bangladesh workers.

Earlier, Kmart had said that it wouldn’t join other global retailers and fashion brands in signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, developed in response to the Rana Plaza building collapse and earlier tragedies.

Robert Reid, General Secretary of FIRST Union, said Kmart’s announcement this morning in Australia was a welcome change of heart.

“Retailers who are not part of the solution on improving the safety of Bangladesh workers are part of the problem,” said Robert Reid.

“Kmart is probably New Zealand’s biggest importer of Bangladesh clothing.  Our union has been working behind the scenes for the last three weeks to convince Kmart to reconsider their decision and join other companies like Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger to commit to improving safety for Bangladesh workers.”

“The collapse of Rana Plaza was an unspeakable tragedy.  Sadly, there are scores of factories like Rana Plaza, in a country that is a global garment manufacturing hub which takes advantage of the absolute poverty wages that are paid.  Wages and conditions in Bangladesh, as well as India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Burma and Vietnam, are now much lower than in China.”

“An accord on safety will not bring back the lives of the 1,127 workers who died in the factory collapse.  But it is an important step in making conditions better for workers in this country.”

FIRST Union is a member of both IndustriALL and UNI, the two global union bodies who have developed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

Robert Reid said that FIRST Union was raising funds locally to support the National Garment Workers Federation of Bangladesh in their work assisting the families of the workers who died in the factory collapse and the injured workers and their families, through Christian World Service.

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