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Uniqlo eyes Bangladesh safety pact

AFP-JIJI

The operator of casual clothing chain Uniqlo said Tuesday it is pressing ahead with its own safety inspections in Bangladesh while it considers joining a global pact on protecting workers.

Fast Retailing, which operates the brand, said no decision has been made on the accord, which was promoted by international labor groups after the nine-storey Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,129 workers, on April 24. It was one of the world’s worst industrial accidents.

“We are continuing to study whether to sign (the deal). We have not reached a conclusion at the moment,” a spokesman said.

Signing the pact would put Uniqlo in the same camp as big European retailers like Tesco and H&M, while staying away would align it with U.S. giants Wal-Mart and Gap, which have opted to stick with self-regulation.

“While giving it serious consideration, we have started doing what we can do now,” the spokesman said, adding the firm this week began checks on fire prevention and other safety measures at its suppliers in Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh deal binds retailers to independent building and fire safety inspections — in a country that has only around 60 official inspectors despite needing hundreds — and to pay for repairs.

Bangladesh is the world’s second-biggest apparel maker and the $20 billion industry, which relies on female workers, accounts for up to 80 percent of exports.