Petition Demands Gap, H&M Sign Bangladesh Safety Plan

A petition supported by more than 828,000 people called on Gap Inc. and Hennes & Mauritz AB to agree to new fire and safety standards at their suppliers after a fire killed hundreds at a Bangladeshi clothing factory.

Online campaigns group Avaaz is organizing the move, seeking 1 million backers to call on Gap Chief Executive Officer Glenn Murphy and H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson to sign to an agreement alongside other clothing companies by May 15. A group of international retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. met unions and non-government organizations in Germany last month to discuss forming an alliance on improving factory standards.

“These factories aren’t sweatshops, they’re death shops,” Avaaz Campaign Director Alex Wilks said in a statement. “Hundreds of women have been crushed to death making our clothes.”

The death toll from the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh two weeks ago has risen to 960. As many as 6,000 people were employed there, the website reported.

Sohel Rana, the owner of the building, and executives of four apparel makers housed in the structure in Savar, 24 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of Dhaka, have been arrested and a court ordered their assets to be seized.

After cracks were found in the building on April 23, workers were forced to return to their posts, according to Mokhlesur Rahman, director general of the Rapid Action Battalion, an elite law-enforcement agency.

Factories Closed

The Bangladesh government ordered 18 garment makers in two cities to close factories yesterday.

At an April 29 meeting held in Eschborn, near Frankfurt, retailers, non-governmental organizations and unions sought to agree a document supporting Bangladesh’s national action plan and providing for a supplier assessment of fire and building risk, said Peter McAllister, a director of Ethical Trade Initiative, who attended.

The agreement, which also would put in place programs to ensure buildings are safe to work in, will be published May 15 “and there will be a strong call for as many brands as we can, who source in Bangladesh, to get behind that,” McAllister said.

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