U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement in response to today's announcement by a consortium of American companies to improve garment factory safety in Bangladesh.
"I welcome the efforts by leading North American retailers and Senators Mitchell and Snowe to come together and take decisive action to help improve factory safety conditions in Bangladesh. The creation of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety is an important first step toward addressing the dismal plight of Bangladeshi garment workers. The initiative's mandate to provide necessary funding to inspect 100 percent of all member factories within the first year, develop common safety standards, and share inspection results will help jumpstart reforms in Bangladesh," said Menendez. "Global retailers have a vital role to play in bringing about change in Bangladesh: From ensuring fire safety agreements, to establishing an industry-wide plan with workplace safety standards, to cost sharing for improvements and compensation for injured workers. North American and European retailers, which often source from the same factories, must now closely coordinate efforts on their various initiatives to ensure that there is a common unified safety standard going forward."
Added Menendez, "The Bangladesh government has a vital role to play to bring the garment industry up to international labor standards. Too many factories are unsafe, operate without permits, and will require stricter oversight. Workers must be given the full rights of freedom of association, of collective bargaining, and must have a seat at the negotiating table to ensure their interests are protected. The workers are best-placed to ensure their own safety, and they must have the tools to do so. The road ahead to real reform in Bangladesh's garment industry will be long, but it's vital that it begin immediately. There are no easy fixes. The United States will continue to work closely with Bangladesh to improve worker safety and chart a path forward."
Last month, Menendez presided over a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing examining labor issues in Bangladesh following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory and fire at the Tazreen Fashion Factory resulting in over 1200 deaths.