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Bangladesh safety pact splits top retailers

world Updated: May 17, 2013 23:40 IST

At least eight of the UK’s leading fashion retailers have failed to put their names to a legally binding initiative to offer financial support for fire safety and building improvements in the wake of the Bangladesh garment disaster.

George at Asda, Next, Matalan, River Island, Sports Direct, Peacocks, Shop Direct and the Arcadia group — which includes Topshop, Bhs and Dorothy Perkins — all failed to meet a deadline set by NGOs and labour leaders to sign the pledge.

The accord on fire and building safety in Bangladesh, which has been signed by H&M, Primark, C&A, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Zara and Tesco, aims to compel retailers to pay for rigorous and independent public inspections and blacklist any factories unwilling to comply.

On Tuesday night, a handful of other retailers did sign up before the deadline, including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, New Look and N Brown, a mail order and online retailer.

The decision by the handful of retailers not to sign up was criticized by campaigners, who said it undermined any ethical initiatives the companies may have.

George at Asda, which is owned by US group Walmart, said about 20% of its clothes come from Bangladesh. George did not use the Rana Plaza building, but Walmart refused to confirm or deny whether it sourced clothes there.

Next declined to comment, but sources suggested the company could sign up later this week. The failure to meet the deadline by some of the biggest fashion names in the UK comes less than a day after the Bangladeshi government agreed to allow the country’s 4 million garment workers to form trade unions without permission from factory owners.