Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other major U.S. retailers plan to meet on 20 August in Chicago to start implementing a Bangladesh factory-safety plan which was announced last month amid criticism it lacks teeth to enforce company promises, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The group, made up of 20 companies known as the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, will also announce its board of directors, reveal new signatories like Costco Wholesale Corp. and finalize common fire- and building-safety standards it pledged to put in place by 10 Sept, this year.
The group said it has already begun to disburse US$45 million in funds by members but plans to hire an executive director and management firm to oversee funds and programs.
The group is the U.S. industry's response to pressure to improve working conditions in facilities in Bangladesh and prevent disasters like the deadly garment factory collapse in April this year.
The retailers, which include Macy's Inc. and Target Corp. struck a five-year deal last month to train workers and inspect factories. It will require factory owners in Bangladesh to pay for their own safety renovations but has committed to providing US$100 million in low-cost loans toward the effort. Participation in the lending program is voluntary and varies by retailer.
The agreement continues to attract scrutiny from labor activists and worker groups who say the safety plan falls short of a separate, legally binding agreement that commits H&M, Tommy Hilfiger parent PVH Corp. and 70 other, mostly European companies to directly pay for the costs of repairing and renovating some 5,000 Bangladesh garment factories.
Critics also complain of the absence of labor organizations from the North American alliance's board of directors and say that nothing will change as long as the retailers continue to control the inspection process by choosing and paying the auditors, as well as electing a board that is supposed to conduct oversight and ensure the companies follow through with their safety plan.
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