For immediate release
Labour Behind the Label
7th April 2016
Labour Rights groups demand H&M deliver ‘safety conscious’ fashion
Labour rights groups in Europe, Bangladesh and North America are demanding that H&M finally keep its promises to make its Bangladeshi supplier factories safe. In the run up to H&M’s 2016 Annual General Meeting in Solna, Sweden on May 3rd, labour rights groups are increasing pressure on the fashion brand. A review of corrective action plans relating to 32 of H&M’s strategic suppliers, carried out this week, shows that the majority of these factories still lack adequate fire exits nearly three years after H&M committed to improve working conditions by signing the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
The call to action comes as the Swedish fast fashion retailer increases attempts to promote its sustainability commitments in the face of growing criticism of worker rights abuses in its supply chains. The launch of H&M’s “Conscious Exclusive Collection,” taking place today at the Louvre in Paris, is one of several events H&M is holding to promote itself as a “sustainable” company. This will be followed by the launch of a video by pop star M.I.A. to promote H&M’s “World Recycle Week,” scheduled for the April 18-24, the same week that labour rights activists will commemorate the 1,134 workers killed by the Rana Plaza building collapse. That devastating garment industry disaster in 2013 originally led to the signing of the Bangladesh Accord.
Workers’ rights advocates have called on H&M to prove its commitments through action rather than stunts. They are specifically urging the company by ensure that three vital repairs – the removal of locks from fire exits, the removal of sliding doors and collapsible gates, and the installation of fire-rated doors and enclosure of stairwells – are completed by the time of the company’s Annual Meeting on May 3rd.
The importance of such repairs was once again underscored by a huge fire at a H&M supplier, Matrix Sweaters Ltd, in February. Only a handful of people suffered injuries, largely due to the fact that most workers had yet to arrive for their shift. The Accord’s inspection report for the factory revealed that it had missed dozens of deadlines to eliminate fire hazards and make the structure safe. Had the fire broken out just an hour later, scores of workers may have been trapped inside.
As a response to H&M’s inaction, the Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, and United Students Against Sweatshops have launched a campaign demanding H&M address its broken promises, with a campaign website, www.hmbrokenpromises.com.
1. Labour Behind the Label is the UK platform of the Clean Clothes Campaign. The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) works to improve conditions and support the empowerment of workers in the global garment industry. The CCC has national campaigns in 15 European countries with a network of 250 organisations worldwide.
2. Labour Behind the Label will be organising a shop action alongisde War on Want in London outside H&M’s Oxford Street shop in the week running up to the Rana Plaza anniversary. For more info please contact Anna McMullen: email@example.com
3. There will be store actions taking place across Europe and North America on 3rd May outside H&M stores to coincide with H&M’s AGM. For more info on where an action is taking place please see: www.hmbrokenpromises.com.
Labour Behind the Label is delighted to announce a major campaign victory with the confirmation that the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund has finally met its target of $30 million, following a large anonymous donation.
Labour Behind the Label, as part of the Clean Clothes Campaign, has been campaigning since the disaster in April 2013 to demand that brands and retailers provided compensation to its victims. Since then over one million consumers from across Europe and around the world have joined actions against many of the major high street companies whose products were being made in one of the five factories housed in the structurally compromised building. These actions forced many brands to finally pay donations and by the second anniversary the Fund was still $2.4 million dollars short of its $30million target. A large donation received by the Fund in the last few days has now led to the Fund meeting its target.
“This day has been long in coming. Now that all the families impacted by this disaster will finally receive all the money that they are owed, they can finally focus on rebuilding their lives. This is a remarkable moment for justice,” said Ineke Zeldenrust of the Clean Clothes Campaign. “This would not have been possible without the support of citizens and consumers across Europe who stuck with the campaign over the past two years. Together we have proved once again that European consumers do care about the workers who make their clothes – and that their actions really can make a difference.”
The Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund was set up by the ILO in January 2014 to collect funds to pay awards designed to cover loss of income and medical costs suffered by the Rana Plaza victims and their families when the Rana Plaza building collapsed in the garment industry’s worst ever disaster.
In November 2014 the Rana Plaza Coordination Committee announced that is would need around $30million to pay in full over 5,000 awards granted through the scheme. However, the failure of brands and retailers linked to Rana Plaza to provide sufficient and timely donations into the Fund has, until today, prevented the payment of the awards from being completed.
The Clean Clothes Campaign will continue to support the Rana Plaza victims who are persuing further payments in recognition of the pain and suffering inflicted upon them as a result of corporate and institutional negligence. These payments fall outside the scope of the Arrangement.
The CCC also calls for policy changes to ensure that those affected by future disasters will receive more timely support. They welcome a new initiative by the ILO in Bangladesh to develop a national workplace injury scheme for the country’s 4 million garment workers. They also urge European politicians to develop better regulation of supply chains to ensure that brands and retailers are held properly accountable in the future.
“This is a huge victory – but its been too long in the making” says Ineke Zeldenrust from CCC: “That brands with a collective annual profit of over $20 billions took two years and significant public pressure to come up with a mere $30 million is an indictment of the voluntary nature of social responsibility. We now need to look at ways to ensure that access to such remedy is provided by brands and retailers as a matter of course, and not only when public outrage makes doing nothing impossible.
For Immediate Release
Labour Behind the Label and War On Want
22nd April 2015
Oxford Street Public Tour Shames High Street Brands on Eve of Disaster Anniversary
Photo Opportunity: Tour Starts 6:30pm Thursday 23rd April, Hanover Square, London in front of Vogue UK HQ.
A public walking tour along Oxford Street, London, will highlight the shameful role of high street brands in the two years since the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in which over 1100 workers died.
Fashion campaigning groups Labour Behind the Label and War on Want will lead fashion lovers from shop to shop highlighting the role UK high street brands such as H&M, GAP and Benneton have played in denying justice to Bangladeshi Garment workers.
Wearing white armbands, a Bangladeshi symbol of grieving, the tour will include stops at shops, performance poetry and audience participation, as the story of the Bangladeshi garment workers’ struggle for justice is told.
Owen Espley, Sweatshops Campaigner at War on Want said: “Two years after Rana Plaza, Bangladeshi garment workers have faced a long road to justice. UK high street brands have delayed paying desperately needed compensation and worked to undermine their struggle for safe factories. Whilst the public has been outraged the fashion industry has failed to step up and do the right thing. The movement for justice in the global fashion industry is growing day by day and will not cease until all workers’ rights are respected everywhere.”
Ilona Kelly, Campaigns Director Labour Behind The Label said: “It is shameful that now, two years on from Rana Plaza, there is still money missing from the compensation fund. Families are waiting in urgent need, with survivors unable to pay on-going medical fees, and yet high street brands continue to put profits over people and refuse to pay what they owe. Brands must be held accountable. Change in the fashion industry is urgently needed and long overdue.“
Owen Espley (War on Want) on +44 7861362797 www.waronwant.org
Ilona Kelly (Labour Behind the Label) on +44 7794271804 www.labourbehindthelabel.org
The walk will start at 6:30pm Hanover Square, [Where Vogue’s UK HQ is located] and then visit H&M, Benetton, & GAP.
The walk is organised by War on Want and Labour Behind the Label, and supported by Fashion Revolution, Potent Whisper, Rainbow Collective, The Brick Lane Debates ,TRAID & Traidcraft
A short video of the walk will be available at youtube.com/user/povertyispolitical on the morning of Friday 24th.
On April 24th 2013 over 1100 workers were killed and thousands injured when the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. Workers had noticed cracks in the buildings’ structure, but were compelled to return to work when threatened with loosing wages.
Benetton has been widely criticised for the delay and obfuscation in delivering compensation to the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster. More info: http://www.cleanclothes.org/news/press-releases/2015/04/17/ccc-believes-benettons-1-1-million-usd-contribution-insufficient and http://www.cleanclothes.org/news/2015/04/21/why-producing-a-report-doesnt-make-benettons-contribution-any-more-credible
GAP has been criticised for not signing up to the Bangladeshi Safety Accord. Instead it has promoted an alternative weaker agreement the Bangladeshi Safety Alliance, which is not legally binding, does not commit brands to ensure financing is available to improve safety in factories and critically does not involve trade unions and workers’ own representatives.
Photograph copyright Heather Stilwell