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Big retailers back safety accord in Bangladesh

| Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Four of the world's biggest retailers agreed to sign a pact to improve safety at garment factories in Bangladesh nearly three weeks after more than 1,100 workers died in a building collapse in the country.

H&M, C&A, Primark and Inditex, owner of the Zara chain, on Monday said they would sign a five-year contract that requires the companies to conduct safety inspections, make factory conditions public and cover the costs for repairs. It also calls for them to stop doing business with any factory that refuses to make safety upgrades.

The companies join two other retailers that signed the agreement last year: PVH, which makes clothes under the Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Izod labels, and German retailer Tchibo. The agreement has since been expanded to five years from two.

Swedish retailer H&M said the agreement is a “pragmatic step,” and urged more brands to reach a pact that covers the entire industry of 5,000 factories in Bangladesh.

The agreement comes as retailers face increasing pressure to monitor factories that produce clothing in Bangladesh after two recent tragedies in the country's garment industry. The building collapse on April 24 was the industry's worst disaster in history. It came months after a fire in another garment factory in Bangladesh in November killed 112 workers.

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