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AMSTERDAM – Clean Clothes Campaign has called for an international safety agreement governing the global garment industry. The NGO claims last week’s tragedy in Tangier, where 28 garment workers died when an unregulated sweatshop was flooded, shows the “urgent need for better working conditions in the Moroccan garment industry, as well as an international binding agreement on factory safety that holds brands, retailers and factory owners accountable for creating safe and healthy workplace conditions.”

Clean Clothes also points to information from the Moroccan employers’ association (AMITH) which claims that of the 1,000 million garments that are manufactured in the country each year, an alarming 600 million are produced in factories subcontracted by foreign firms. The main destinations for Moroccan clothing exports are Spain, France, the UK, Ireland and Portugal.

In a statement, Clean Clothes said: “This tragedy once again highlights the dismal working conditions in a global industry employing a majority women workforce, where precarious labour relations, lack of transparency and impunity continue to be endemic.

“The tragedy shows the need for concerted efforts in the industry to improve factory safety and healthy workplace conditions. The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in 2013, killing over 1,100 workers, led to a binding and enforceable system that has improved factory safety for over 2 million workers in the country. Currently, unions and labour rights organisations are calling for this programme to turn into an international binding agreement, that could be used to implement and enforce the same levels of health and safety in garment supply chains in other countries around the world.”

Clean Clothes claims the need for such a binding agreement is further underlined by the latest tragedy and its causes. It added: “Extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall that most likely caused this incident, are already costing lives and destroying livelihoods, and will occur more often in the wake of climate change and rising temperatures. Brands and retailers have the responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.

“While that was always a challenge, the combined threats of climate change and a global pandemic, make a concerted approach to health and safety even more pressing. Brands and retailers can meet this obligation by committing to the proposed binding international agreement on safety that will provide a framework for creating safe and healthy working conditions for the workers in their supply chains.”

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