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KARACHI – Clean Clothes Campaign has accused fashion brands, including H&M, C&A, Bestseller, and Zara of delaying the expansion of the International Accord for Health and Safety to Pakistan. The NGO has released a new report which, it claims, gives insight into, “frightening safety violations occurring in garment factories in Pakistan.”

The report claims workers supplying C&A, H&M, and Bestseller reported exits being blocked in their factories. It also claims workers at factories producing for H&M and Bestseller reported witnessing explosions and being exposed to electrical discharge and harmful substances. And workers at Zara and H&M factories reported witnessing a fire in their factories.

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Clean Clothes Campaign claims recent incidents and ongoing safety hazards in these brands’ supply chains could have been avoided or resolved by expanding the Accord to Pakistan. 

Clean Clothes claims that although the Accord’s senior staff have recommended the initiation of a programme in Pakistan, the brand representatives on the Steering Committee, including H&M, C&A, Inditex (Zara), and Bestseller have refused to join their labour counterparts in supporting initiation. “The brand representatives have instead insisted on delay after delay, to the point where their posture suggests not caution, but wilful obstruction,” said Clean Clothes in a statement.

“This is on top of public reports of gas leaks at an H&M factory,” states the report. “The majority of Pakistani workers surveyed for the report reported the absence of fire-rated stairwells and exits.”

The report coincides with the tenth anniversary of the Ali Enterprises fire in Pakistan where more than 250 garment workers were killed.

States the report: “It is abundantly clear that industry-led initiatives and self-audits have failed, and Ali Enterprises is just one example of this. The Ali Enterprises factory was certified by the well-known social audit company Rina Associates, which marked the factory as ‘safe’, only a few weeks before the devastating fire. The expansion of the Accord to Pakistan can ensure credible, independent inspections, remediation, safety training, and a complaint mechanism to keep workers safe.”

Nasir Mansoor the general secretary National Trade Union Federation states: “H&M, C&A, Bestseller, and Inditex will gladly profit from the efforts of garment workers in Pakistan – yet, when it comes to these workers’ safety, that’s never a top priority for these brands. Accord negotiations are not a game for workers in Pakistan; people’s lives are at stake. These brands must agree to expand the Accord to Pakistan now and extend the agreement beyond 2023.”

Saeeda Khatoon from the Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees’ Association states: “In the past 18 months alone there have been over 30 serious safety incidents in garment and textile factories in Pakistan. Over a dozen people have died and more have been injured. These incidents could have been prevented and lives could have been saved if these brands had not purposely delayed expansion of the Accord to Pakistan. H&M, C&A, Bestseller, and Inditex have blood and lives on their hands.” 

Ineke Zeldenrust of Clean Clothes Campaign added: “Clean Clothes Campaign’s incidents report paints a scary picture of worker safety in Pakistan. But what is even scarier is that we don’t know the true extent of the safety violations in factories. If brands were to stop obstructing progress and agree to allow the International Accord to implement independent factory inspections in Pakistan, we could start to understand the factory renovations and repairs that need to be done in order to protect worker safety.”

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