High street retailers respond to public protest and improve conditions for garment workers

16 October 2013

The Anglican Alliance have been key drivers in the global campaign, joining with the Church of Bangladesh Group to encourage consumers in the UK, US, Canada and Australia to put pressure on their retailers in the run up to Christmas.

Since the campaign launch in September, over 90 top high-street companies, including New Look, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety.  A further 20 companies, mostly based in America, have signed a similar agreement.  

Students in the UK have been central to the campaign’s success and organisations such as the South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance have also given their support.  Christians across the country are raising their voices for their brothers and sisters in Bangladesh.  

And more can be done.  The retailers that have signed the safety accord cover just 2,100 of the 5,000 garment factories in Bangladesh, and still many workers are left unprotected due to loopholes in the signed agreements.  A recent fire at a textile factory near Dhaka in Bangladesh, which killed more than ten people, highlights the need for a continued campaign. 

The Deputy Manager at the Aswad Composite Mills factory, Molla Boadnuzzamah, said that British high street brands Next, Primark, George, Gap, H&M and Morrisons had been using the factory that caught alight after a machine overheated.

This particular factory escaped inspection as the signed accords refer only to registered garment factories who have contracts with clothing brands, and not to the textile companies to whom the work is often outsourced.

Poor conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers are well documented: long hours, a lack of sanitation and poorly constructed factories make working in the industry a risky business. Despite a booming clothing market, extremely low wages mean that the people making our clothes struggle to survive. The textile industry accounts for 45 per cent of all industrial employment in Bangladesh but makes up just five per cent of the total national income. In real terms, the average garment worker earns just nine pence per hour – only 14 per cent of a realistic living wage.

Our resource pack calls on all Christians to be a voice for the voiceless and put pressure on retailers to stop this injustice. The resource is already being used by Churches and student societies in the UK, Australia, Canada and the US, and includes a template letter which can be sent to your retailer to ask them to make a change.  

You can find out more about the campaign on our dedicated page for Garment Workers.

Or send an email to anglicanalliance@aco.org for more information.

In the picture: Rehana is one of the garment workers who was injured in the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in April this year.

Note: The global coalition of churches in the Church of Bangladesh Group includes:
Anglican Alliance, Church of Bangladesh, Church Mission Society, Church of Scotland, Council for World Mission, Diocese of Llandaff (Church in Wales), Methodist Church in Britain, Oxford Mission, Us (United Society).