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AMSTERDAM – A new report has called for the International Accord to be expanded to Pakistan. Research was carried out by Clean Clothes Campaign and Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) at Cardiff University. The report cites evidence collected over the past 18-months showing numerous safety incidents resulting in deaths and injuries in garment factories.

Clean Clothes Campaign conducted a survey of almost 600 workers covering issues from workplace harassment, workplace health and safety, and worker wellbeing. 

The most pressing of the issues were deficiencies in some of the most basic provisions for factory safety in garment production, even those mandated by law. 85 per cent of workers reported no access to proper exit stairwells in the case of a fire. One in five workers said their workplace lacked fire drills and were unaware of emergency escape routes and exits. Additionally, the survey found independent factory inspections were not taking place in Pakistan. This meant that while workers reported the existence of fire alarms and some safety mechanisms, there have been no regular inspections conducted to ensure systems and equipment are operating safely. 

In factories where women account for the majority of workers, only three-quarters of workers reported they had access to escape routes that were clear from obstruction.

In Pakistan, an estimated 2.2 million workers produce garments, 1.8 million make textiles, and 200,000 are employed in the footwear and leather industry. They supply global brands such as Levi’s, H&M, and Ikea.

States the report: “The results of the survey illustrate the pressing need for the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry to expand to Pakistan. The Accord would ensure regular independent factory inspections by qualified engineers, require compliance with time-bound corrective action plans to correct identified safety hazards, and provide a complaint mechanism by which workers can hold factory management accountable for implementing safety procedures, without fear of retaliation. The involvement of local unions and other local workers’ rights organisations in the design, governance and implementation of the expansion of the Accord to Pakistan will be of vital importance.”

Ineke Zeldenrust of Clean Clothes Campaign said: “The responsibility to ensure factory workers in Pakistan are safe when they go to work falls on the brands who source and profit from these factories. Brands have the power to lead the way and make changes with the potential to improve the lives of millions of workers by giving them what we should all be entitled to expect – a safe and healthy workplace and the right to be part of the process of making it so.” 

Nasir Mansoor, general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation in Pakistan said: “Workers and local unions have been demanding a binding safety agreement for years. Implementing the International Accord in Pakistan would not only ensure the safety of workers but also ensure workers have space to negotiate directly with brands and factory workers. Workers in Pakistan are in desperate need of a binding safety agreement, not only to fix safety issues within factories but to also provide workers security by fixing the low rates of worker registration.” 

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