UPDATE 1-North American group sets Bangladesh factory safety plan

Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:16pm EDT
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* 17-member alliance includes Wal-Mart, Gap, Target, VF Corp

* 500 factories to be inspected, have worker training in 1st year

By Jessica Wohl and Doug Palmer

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON, July 10 (Reuters) - North American retailers unveiled a five-year safety plan for Bangladesh garment factories on Wednesday that would include inspecting within a year every factory they use, following tragedies such as April's deadly garment building collapse.

The North American plan was immediately criticized by groups that think a European-led plan is stronger.

The plan announced in Washington, D.C. by the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which includes 17 retailers and apparel companies, comes after 1,129 workers were killed in the collapse of a Bangladesh garment plant in April, and another 112 people perished in a fire at a Bangladesh factory in November.

A larger number of mainly European retailers that have signed what is known as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh announced a similar plan on Monday. Both plans include factory inspections, worker training and ways for workers to report safety concerns. The two groups also agreed not to use factories considered to be unsafe.

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and long-term shareholders in apparel brands and retailers said the Alliance's plan lacks sufficient worker protections and accountability mechanisms and called it a weaker alternative to the European-led accord.

European unions involved in the other accord, industriALL and UNI Global Union, called the North American alliance "another toothless" auditing program.   Continued...