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A New Era for the Bangladesh Garment Industry? July 7th, 2013

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Photo credit: Emma L. Herman

A PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly video clearly explains the realities confronting the Bangladesh garment industry. Cheap clothes come at a high cost.

Watch the video…


Faith-Based and Socially Responsible Investors Urge U.S. Retailers to Back Bangladesh Accord June 7th, 2013

People and rescuers gather after an eight-story building housing several garment factories collapsed in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Used under Creative Commons license; photo courtesy of rijans on flickr

People and rescuers gather after an eight-story building housing several garment factories collapsed in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, April 24, 2013.
Used under Creative Commons license; photo courtesy of rijans on flickr

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a group of socially responsible investors of which the Oblates are active members, has asked US retailers to be part of the Bangladesh Fire and Safety initiative, a global accord that promotes the safety of garment workers that would be legally enforceable. The initiative was proposed after more than 1,100 workers died in a building collapse on the outskirts of Dhaka on April 24. The collapsed building housed garment factories that supplied to several Western retailers.

At least 14 North American retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), Macy’s Inc (M.N), Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O), JC Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) and Gap Inc (GPS.N) have declined to sign the accord.

They have said the accord gives labour unions too much control over ensuring workplace safety and have proposed the alternative “Safer Factory Initiative”.

ICCR, which was part of the Divestment from South Africa campaign in protest against Apartheid, said the alternative plan could dilute the impact of the accord and may not be legally enforceable.

Retailers such as Zara parent Inditex S.A. (ITX.MC), H&M (HMb.ST), PVH Corp (PVH.N) and Britain’s Tesco Plc (TSCO.L) have supported the Bangladesh fire and safety initiative.

Read the ICCR Statement on the issue…


Clothing Retailers Pressed on Safety Issues May 12th, 2013

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Photo credit: Emma L. Herman

The Rev. Seamus Finn, OMI (OMI JPIC Office Director) was quoted in a recent New York Times article on the building collapse and fires in the Bangladesh garment industry, saying: “What happened in Bangladesh is a game-changer because of the gravity of the situation and the tremendous loss of life,” Father Finn said. “People are really coming to life about this and saying, ‘We need to do something.’ ”

Rev. Finn is circulating a letter among other faith-based and socially responsible investors – groups that control more than $100 billion in assets — expressing displeasure with U.S. retailers. He says the retailers have not done nearly enough to improve workplace safety for the more than three million garment workers in Bangladesh.

Read the NY Times article…

Bangladesh labor costs in the garment manufacturing industry are the lowest in the world. Decent factory operations there are under tremendous pressure from their purchasers to lower costs, with the buyers threatening to ‘take their business down the road’ unless their terms are met.

 


JPIC Staff Visits Bangladesh May 3rd, 2013

Khasi VillageChristina Herman, JPIC Office Associate Director, visited Bangladesh in late March/early April. Her daughter, Emma, accompanied her, taking thousands of photos and copious notes. Fr. Joseph Gomes, OMI graciously hosted a ten day trip around the Sylhet region of NE Bangladesh, which provided a fascinating look at the lives of the indigenous Khasi people and the issues confronting their villages. The Oblate mission in Bangladesh started in the Sylhet region, and there are a number of parishes among the indigenous peoples of the area.

Frequent national strikes (or hartals) called by a political opposition determined to undermine the government made the trip challenging, but the group covered a lot of ground.

Sharif Jamil, Buriganga RiverKeeper

Sharif Jamil, Buriganga RiverKeeper

In Dhaka, Christina teamed up with the Bangladesh WaterKeeper, Sharif Jamil, in an examination of environmental and labor issues related to the leather and garment export industries. They visited the Buriganga River, leather tanneries north of the city, a massive garment factory, and had a number of informative meetings with factory owners and managers, labor union organizers, and environmentalists.

Polluted Water from Leather Tanneries

Polluted Water from Leather Tanneries flows into the Buriganga River

The tanneries are a large source of pollution for the main river flowing through Dhaka, a megacity of an estimated 18 million people. Millions depend on the rivers for bathing, washing clothes, and transportation, yet they are heavily polluted with industrial and human waste. Human Rights Watch recently issued a study of the health impacts of the tanneries, which matched the findings of this trip. Untreated industrial waste flowing from the garment factories is common. A huge factor in the pollution is the lack of adequate sewage treatment for the city’s burgeoning population.

Click here to read more »


Lives Destroyed, Dreams Crushed and Cheap Clothes April 29th, 2013

Father-SeamusThe collapse of a large eight-story garment factory in Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka a few days ago has resulted in numerous images, stories and reports. The loss of more that 300 lives, most of them young parents, alongside the countless number that have suffered serious injuries, has resulted in immeasurable pain, suffering and anger.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the spotlight has been directed on the garment industry in Bangladesh.

Read Fr. Finn’s latest blog on Huffington Post…

 


Indigenous Land Rights Asserted in Bangladesh Conference December 19th, 2012

Participants in the December 7th Roundtable on Indigenous Land Rights in Bangladesh

Environment and indigenous rights activists demanded the formation of an Indigenous Peoples Commission led by an acceptable person on indigenous peoples’ right of plain lands to identify and solve problems towards protecting their rights.

This demand was raised at a discussion titled “Life and Livelihood Policy of Indigenous People and Legal Rights: Perspective of Khasi Community” organised by Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA) and Adivasi Poribesh Rokkha Andolon (APRA) at Reporters’ Unity in Dhaka.

An English translation of the report of the conference is available here. (Download PDF)

Ms Flora Bably Talang speaking at the Roundtable on Indigenous Peoples' Land Rights

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