Kmart, Target sign key safety Bangladesh agreement

Bangladeshi relatives of missing workers in a building that collapsed hold pictures of their family members in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sunday, April 28, 2013

KMART and Target have become the first Australian retailers to sign onto an accord to improve safety at Bangladesh factories, following a building collapse that killed more than 1100 workers in April.

Oxfam labour rights coordinator Daisy Gardener said Kmart and Target were to be congratulated for signing, adding the pressure was now on Cotton On and Big W to follow suit.

“In terms of fire and building safety this is a very important step to ensure workers have safe factory conditions,” Ms Gardener said.

Local Bangladeshi unions and international human rights groups have approached clothing manufacturers worldwide to join the global initiative for improved building and safety conditions following the disaster at Rana Plaza on April 24.

The agreement requires companies to conduct independent safety inspections, make their reports on factory conditions public and cover the costs for needed repairs.

It also requires them to stop doing business with any factory that refuses to make safety upgrades and to allow workers and their unions to have a voice in factory safety.

The Australian companies who manufacture in Bangladesh have not been connected to the Rana Plaza factory.

Kmart Australia managing director Guy Russo has just returned from Bangladesh, where he spent the week meeting with the retailer's team in Bangladesh, its suppliers and other key stakeholders.

“We have also completed fire and building safety audits for all of our factories to ensure we are fully informed and can determine appropriate health, safety and building integrity initiatives for those who work with us in the Bangladesh garment industry,” Mr Russo said.

Mr Russo said recent events in Bangladesh have been “tragic”.

“I am committed to both our team and our suppliers in Bangladesh, who are as passionate as we are, to create safe and productive employment in a country which is so reliant on the garment industry,” he said.

Target Australia managing director Stuart Machin said signing accord was “simply the right thing to do”.

“Like millions of people around the world, we've been deeply saddened by the recent tragic events in Bangladesh. At Target, we believe that everyone who works for our business, either directly or indirectly, is entitled to a safe and healthy workplace,” Mr Machin said.

“[Signing the accord] provides our customers with another level of confidence in the products they buy from us.”

Mr Machin added that senior members of Target's leadership team would be visiting Bangladesh in coming weeks to meet with factory owners and workers.