April 2013 Source dominated by biggest Bangladesh tragedy

 

As Bangladesh deaths pass 900, another fire and more questions.

The Rana Plaza collapse has provoked millions of words of comment – and has now been followed by another fire. As the industry comes under more scrutiny The Source reviews the key issues that now need to be addressed in Bangladesh and throughout the industry’s management processes

 

China holds share and gets cheaper: US imports soar EU retail falls

US apparel imports increased 7.4% in the first two months of the year, though reliable data for EU imports is not yet available. Though imports from Haiti grew almost twice as fast as from any other substantial supplier, China more than held its share with a 14% year on year growth. Prices overall fell 2.5%, and slightly faster from China.

 

Imports from everywhere in Central America, other than Haiti, fell. Contrary to local belief, imports from India fell exceptionally badly, while imports from Sri Lanka grew as fast as imports from Bangladesh. China’s own data came under growing criticism for its inaccuracy, while EU retail sales kept falling

 

Activists smell victory over former Adidas supplier. But not on Burma

Adidas announced an agreement, without specifying details, on a running dispute over treatment of workers in Indonesia Indonesian factory workers after the owners of PT Kizone absconded. The agreement follows a widening boycott campaign launched in US colleges, and has been hailed as a victory by activists.

 

But human-rights activists were almost hysterical in their hostile reaction to EU foreign minsters’ decision to extend the Union’s duty free agreement for the world’s poorest countries to Burma. The decision coincided with more reports of ethnic violence aimed at Burma’s Muslim minority extending further into central Burma.

 

US starts showing muscle on worker rights abuse

The U.S. and Guatemala agreed an enforcement plan to resolve concerns about worker abuse first raised in a complaint filed by US unions in 2008, while the US has begun to push forward on labour abuse allegations made against Bahrain, and has set up an investigation into rights abuses in Jordan. The Bangladeshi government has promised to ensure workers’ right to form unions to avoid losing its limited trade preferences in the US.

 

But the US government continues to review broadly similar complaints about working conditions in Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. America’s AFL-CIO continues to campaign against labour rights violations in Colombia but has not yet decided to turn these into a complaint under the US FTA with Colombia

 

Campaigns hot up. But some misfire

America’s major union launched a well-researched attack on the whole auditing system, as detailed – if sometimes badly informed – critiques of the industry grew faster than ever, and governments clamped down more on bad compliance.

Greenpeace extended its anti-emissions campaign to pollution in Indonesia and the need for brands and retailers to disclose and reduce pollution in their supply chain. But of the brands it named, most already run the programme Greenpeace are pursuing, and Gap deny the involvement Greenpeace allege.

US buyers, including Nike, campaigned for the US State Department to downgrade Uzbekistan in its next annual Trafficking in Persons report – as Nike came under fire for friendliness to the Uzbeks. The real effect of this is likely to be no greater than European activist campaigns to strip Uzbekistan of trade concessions on its cotton exports. But European imports of raw cotton carry no duty.

Argentine activist group Alameda appears to have provided no satisfactory reply to attempts by Inditex to get substantiation for claims the group made, and Inditex outright denied, that Inditex subsidiary Zara had been using slave labour in Buenos Aires sweatshops.

But, after lengthy pressure from activists, H&M published its supplier list: the first major mass-market garment retailer to do so.

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