SEARCH

Entries in Bangladesh (9)

Saturday
Apr272013

Owners of Factories in Collapsed Bangladeshi Building Arrested

Photo credit should read MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images(DHAKA, Bandladesh) -- Two owners of garment factories in the  building that collapsed in the Bangladeshi capital were arrested after turning themselves in to the authorities on Saturday, according to BBC News.

Mahbubur Rahman Tapas and Balzul Samad Adnan are accused of “death due to negligence,” having ignored warnings about cracks in the building. They reportedly forced their workers to go back to work despite visible damage to the structure.

Tapas and Adnan are the owners of the New Wave Bottoms and New Wave Style factories. Officials say there were three other garment factories operating out of the building.

The owner of the Rana Plaza building, Mohammed Sohel Rana, has reportedly gone into hiding.

"Wherever he is, he will be found and brought to justice," said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"Those who're involved, especially the owner who forced the workers to work there, will be punished."

At least 336 people are known to have died in the collapse. BBC News reports that 24 people were rescued from the rubble Saturday morning.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan272013

Another Factory Fire Kills More Garment Workers

Design Pics/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Another garment factory has burned in Bangladesh and killed seven more workers sewing clothes for Western customers, according to groups that monitor working conditions there.

It is the latest in a rash of deadly fires in the high-rise factories that have made Bangladesh the second largest exporter of clothing to the United States behind China. More than 700 workers have died in factory fires in the past five years. Two months ago, a ferocious blaze at a factory making clothes for major U.S. retailers killed an estimated 112 workers there.

This latest deadly fire occurred in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka at a factory called Smart Export Garments Ltd., which was believed to be manufacturing clothes for the Spanish parent company of the American retailer Zara, as well as several European brands, worker rights groups told ABC News overnight.

"After more than two decades of the apparel industry knowing about the risks to these workers, nothing substantial has changed," said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum, one of several groups advocating for a fire safety overhaul in the country.

"Brands still keep their audit results secret; they still walk away when it suits them; and trade unions are still marginalized, weakening workers' ability to speak up when they are at risk," Gearhart said.

The blaze occurred at a small factory in downtown Dhaka, where workers reported little in the way of safety precautions. A local fire official told The New York Times that the factory was located on the second floor of a building, above a bakery, and it lacked proper exits and fire prevention equipment. "We did not find fire extinguishers," the official said. "We did not find any safety measures."

The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights reported that the seven women who died were crushed to death as they raced to escape the fire. Two of the women killed were just teenagers, aged 15 and 16, according to the group.

The spate of deadly fires was the subject of a recent series of reports by ABC News about the dangerous conditions in Bangladesh, which has the lowest wages and among the worst working conditions in the world for garment manufacturers. The investigation found evidence of high-rise death traps, where poorly maintained electrical systems, locked exits, limited firefighting equipment, and mountains of combustible fabric provided a recipe for disaster.

After the initial reports, designer Tommy Hilfiger's company, PVH Corp., became the first American clothing retailer to pledge to improve conditions in conjunction with workers' groups.

Scott Nova, director of the Worker Rights Consortium, said worker advocates in Bangladesh have been to the scene of the latest fire and have started to try and identify which retailers had hired the factory to make clothing there. He said they identified two labels belonging to Inditex, the world's largest clothing retailer and the parent company of Zara.

Barbara Briggs, assistant director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, said her group also had photographs showing that at the time of the blaze, winter jackets were being sewn for the Inditex line called "Lefties," a European label.

Messages left for Inditex officials have not been answered. The company posts information on its website about its efforts to insure the safety of the workers making its clothing. It says the company "conducts technical assistance visits to manufacturing facilities," and it employs a team of 40 independent experts to audit the facilities that make its labels, "which in 2012 alone resulted in more than 600 technical assistance visits to suppliers worldwide."

Nova and other advocates for improved safety conditions said the latest fire indicates that what little efforts have been made by Western brands to date are not working.

"How many more workers have to die before ... big retailers finally commit to pay for the reforms that are needed to make the industry in Bangladesh safe?" Nova said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov282012

Factory Workers: We Were Locked In As Flames Spread

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images(DHAKA, Bangladesh) -- More survivors of the factory fire in Bangladesh that killed more than 100 garment workers this weekend have told human rights and international labor groups they were actually locked in by security gates as the flames spread.

"The police and the fire department are confirming that the collapsible gates were locked on each floor," said Charles Kernighan, executive director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. "The fire department said they had to come in with bolt cutters to cut the locks."

The toll of the garment factory blaze now stands at 112, but Kernighan and others interviewed by ABC News said they believe the number may actually be much higher. The destruction inside made it difficult to identify bodies, and Kernighan said factory officials have yet to make public a list of the 1,500 workers believed to be working in the nine-story building at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, when the fire broke out in a first-floor warehouse.

Kalpona Akter, a labor activist based in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka, spoke with a number of survivors, who described a scene of horror as workers started to smell smoke, and then the power went out and they were thrown into darkness.

"Then they ran to the stairs and found it was already fire caught in the stairs," she said. "They broke one window in the east side of the factory and…they started to jump."

Akter said many groups of relatives worked together in the factory, and when the lights went out, many began to scream in search of their mothers and sisters and daughters. She said she also heard accounts of managers shutting the gates as alarms sounded to prevent workers from walking off the job, apparently thinking it was a false alarm.

Authorities in Bangladesh announced three arrests, all supervisors from the factory, whom the police accused of negligence in their handling of the incident.

A journalist who attended the police press conference told ABC News the three men were arrested "because they did not perform their duty" and prevented workers from escaping from the factory, instead of helping them get out.

Also Wednesday, there were new reports that clothing found in the burned-out remains included large quantities of sweatshirts with labels for Disney, the parent company of ABC News. Like Walmart and Sears, Disney said Wednesday it had no idea the Tazreen Fashions Limited factory was not supposed to be making its clothes.

"None of our licensees have been permitted to manufacture Disney-branded products in this facility for at least the last 12 months," a Disney statement read.

As with Disney, other retailers continue to question how their products could be found in a factory they did not know they had hired. Li & Fung, a Hong Kong supplier that works with several large brands, confirmed it was producing clothes in the factory for a Sean Combs label, ENYCE. But in a statement to ABC News Wednesday, Li & Fung said it had not brought clothes to the factory for any other client, including Sears, Disney and Walmart.

Asked why it hired a factory that had been cited by at least one auditor for having safety problems, Li & Fung said it was investigating that question.

"As this tragic event is still under official investigation by the authorities, and since Li & Fung will conduct our own investigation, it would be premature to comment on our prior assessment of the factory's compliance," the statement said.

Labor rights groups said the American clothing companies have an obligation to know where their clothing is being manufactured.

"They have the power to make demands on the factory owners, they don't do it though," Kernighan said. "Because they want to keep cutting the prices, and cutting the prices, and cutting the prices."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov282012

Girl Demands Change After Bangladesh Factory Fire Kills 112

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As labor activists push for a major safety overhaul after a garment factory fire that left more than 100 workers dead, the teen survivor of an earlier blaze has launched an online petition calling on three major U.S. clothing companies that buy clothes from Bangladesh, including Walmart, to commit to fire safety in their overseas factories.

A girl who calls herself "Lovely" says she was 11 in 2006 when a fire swept through the clothing factory where she worked.  Lovely and 150 other workers were injured, and more than 60 people died.  She said the building where she worked was a "death trap" -- and that six years later, conditions at Bangladesh factories haven't changed.

"Every day I wonder," asked Lovely, "is this the day when there will be another fire and more people will die?"

On Change.org, Lovely, who didn't give her last name, started a petition calling on Wal-Mart, Gap and H&M, the top three buyers of garments from Bangladesh, to pledge support for "a real fire safety program that will save the lives of the companies' sweatshop workers."

[ CLICK HERE TO READ THE PETITION ]

The International Labor Rights Forum, which connected Lovely with Change.org, also issued a separate joint statement with the Worker Rights Consortium demanding that Walmart compensate the families of those who died in this weekend's fire, and that Walmart join an existing fire and safety program that unions and labor rights groups have created with other foreign companies.  PVH, owner of the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands, has already signed on to the program, as has German retailer Tchibo.

The calls for reform came as Bangladesh government investigators reached an initial conclusion that the weekend's deadly fire may have been intentionally set.

"We have come to the conclusion that it was an act of sabotage.  We are finding out as of now who exactly the saboteurs are and all culprits will be brought to book," said the country's interior minister, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, according to published reports.

One garment industry official, quoted in local media, went so far as to suggest outsiders intentionally set the fire to destabilize the garment industry.

The assertion exposed longstanding deep tensions between government and industry officials on one side, and the thousands of workers who make bare-bones earnings sewing clothes for American and European fashion brands on the other.  Anger from the workers appeared mostly to be directed at factory owners.  One labor organizer told ABC News that the owners were aligned with government "thugs" whom she said help support the owners' efforts to minimize cost, no matter the risk to workers.

At least 112 workers died in the fire at Tazreen Fashions Limited's nine-story factory on the outskirts of the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, late Saturday night.  The death toll may actually be higher, but officials have had difficulty identifying victims because of the intensity of the blaze.  One witness described the scene to ABC News in an email.

"Everything burned," the witness wrote.  "Even the man and woman burned into ashes."

Over the past several days, the names of the American brands that were relying on the Tazreen factory to produce t-shirts, fleece, jeans and other garments has become more clear.  Photos taken by workers showed labels for Walmart's private label, Faded Glory, in the burned-out remains along with clothing for a number of other U.S. labels, including a clothing line by music mogul Sean Combs called ENYCE, and clothing by the workwear brand Dickies.

According to a document posted on-line by the manufacturer, Walmart had been warned by an inspector that the factory posed a safety hazard to workers.  A company spokesman told ABC News that Walmart thought it had dropped the factory from its list of production facilities in Bangladesh, and said it was surprised to learn that a middleman had continued to use Tazreen to produce a Walmart line of clothes.

"A supplier subcontracted work to this factory without authorization and in direct violation of our policies," said a Walmart statement released Monday.  "Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier.  The fact that this occurred is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh."

The company would not say if it had plans to compensate victims of the fire or provide any assistance to the families of those who lost relatives in the blaze.

The president of Sean Combs's clothing brand provided a statement to ABC News saying the company "expect[s] all our licensees to have in place compliant standards for fire and safety conditions at any factory that may produce our brand," but blamed the decision to produce the line at Tazreen on a middleman -- the Hong Kong-based company Li & Fung.  Li & Fung did not return calls seeking comment, but posted a statement on its website expressing sympathy for the victims, and laying out a plan to compensate each family of a dead worker with a payment of $1,200.

A spokeswoman for Dickies said the company ceased production at the Tazreen factory "earlier this year" but would not say when.  She would not respond to questions inquiring how clothing with the Dickies label was photographed on the factory floor the day after the blaze.

Officials from the company that owns the Tazreen factory have said little as the government has investigated the cause of the fire, and has not addressed the assertions by some survivors of the blaze that factory managers had initially ordered workers to remain in place when fire alarms sounded, that there were limited fire exits, and that at least one exit was locked.  The company, Tuba Group, includes on its website a certificate showing a rating of compliance from a non-profit group called Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production, or WRAP, which is based in Arlington, Va.

The certificate, however, was for a different factory owned by Tuba.  The company initially applied for a certification from the group for the Tazreen factory in November of last year, according to Russ Jowell, communications manager for WRAP.  But Tuba failed to pay the $1,200 application fee for the Tazreen certification, and so the factory was never visited by the group's inspectors.

"The factory in question, Tazreen, has not, nor has it ever been, certified by us.  Not now or ever," Jowell said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov272012

Bangladesh Mourns Workers Killed in Clothes Factory Fire

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images(DAHKA, Bangladesh) -- Bangladesh held a national day of mourning Tuesday following a deadly garment factory fire that killed 112 people over the weekend.

Flags flew at half-mast at buildings across the country, while workers demonstrated against dangerous factory conditions for a second straight day.

The Tazreen Fashions factory, located outside the capital city of Dhaka, manufactured clothes for American companies, including Walmart.  Fire officials say the flames broke out Saturday night on the ground floor and workers had no way out.

One of the companies that supplies clothes from that factory to American labels has agreed to pay victims' families $1,200 each.

The government is investigating the cause of the fire.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov262012

Fire Kills 112 Workers in Bangladesh Making Clothes for US Brands

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images(DHAKA, Bangladesh) -- The 100-plus workers who died in a fire late Saturday at a high-rise garment factory in Bangladesh were working overtime making clothes for major American retailers, including Walmart, according to workers' rights groups.

Officials in Bangladesh said the flames at the Tazreen Fashions factory outside Dhaka spread rapidly on the ground floor, trapping those on the higher floors of the nine-story building.  There were no exterior fire escapes, according to officials, and many died after jumping from upper floors to escape the flames.

As firemen continued to remove bodies on Sunday, officials said at least 112 people had died but that the number of fatalities could go higher.

The Tazreen fire is the latest in a series of deadly blazes at garment factories in Bangladesh, where more than 700 workers -- many making clothes for U.S. consumers -- have died in factory fires in the past five years.  As previously reported by ABC News, Bangladesh has some of the cheapest labor in the world and some of the most deplorable working conditions.

"The industry and parent brands in the U.S. have been warned again and again about the extreme danger to workers in Bangladesh and they have not taken action," said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, an American group working to improve conditions at factories abroad that make clothes for U.S. companies.  Nova said the fire was the most deadly in the history of the Bangladesh apparel industry, and "one of the worst in any country."

Workers' activists went into the burned-out remains on Sunday to document which major retailers were using the Tazreen factory.

They say they found labels for Faded Glory, a Walmart private label, along with labels they said traced back to Sears and a clothing company owned by music impresario Sean "Diddy" Combs.

"There's no question that Walmart and the other customers at this factory bear some blame for what happened in this factory," Nova said.

Nova also said that Walmart "knew exactly what's going on at these facilities.  They have staff on site in Bangladesh."

Walmart told ABC News that the company has not yet been able to confirm that it was still making clothes at the factory.

In a statement, Walmart told ABC News, "Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of this tragedy....[F]ire safety is a critically important area of Walmart's factory audit program and we have been working across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh."

"As part of this effort, we partnered with several independent organizations to develop and roll out fire safety training tools for factory management and workers. Continued engagement is critical to ensure that reliable, proactive measures are in place to reduce the chance of factory fires," the statement continued.

Spokespeople for Combs and Sears did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov252012

Fire in Bangladeshi Clothes Factory Over 100 Dead

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A clothes factory fire in Bangladesh on Saturday has killed over 100 people, BBC News reports.

The blaze broke out late on Saturday in the Tazreen Fashion factory on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka. Some people died after jumping from the multi-story building to escape the fire, while others died after being trapped inside the burning factory. Local officials believe an electrical short circuit may have caused the fatal fire, according to the BBC.  

There were no fire exits on the outside of the factory.

 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr092012

Labor Organizer Who Exposed Dangerous Working Conditions Is Tortured, Killed

Worker Rights Consortium(NEW YORK) -- A labor organizer who helped ABC News expose dangerous working conditions at garment factories in Bangladesh was tortured and killed last week, according to authorities.

"All indications are that Aminul Islam was murdered because of his labor rights work," said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, an American group working to improve conditions at factories abroad that make clothes for U.S. companies. "This depraved act signals the deterioration of an already-grim labor rights situation in Bangladesh, which is now the fourth-largest exporter of apparel to the U.S."

Islam had been serving as a senior organizer for the Bangladeshi Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), and had most recently been involved in efforts to organize workers at garment factories owned by a company called the Shanta Group. According to shipping records, the company makes clothing for numerous well-known American companies, including Tommy Hilfiger, Nike and Ralph Lauren.

Islam had also helped arrange interviews for ABC News with survivors of one of the deadliest recent factory fires in Bangladesh -- interviews featured in a recent report that aired on Nightline and focused on designer Tommy Hilfiger and the parent company that manufactures his clothing line, PVH Corp.

Bangladesh is currently the cheapest place in the world for garment manufacturers to make clothing. Workers can make as little as 21 cents an hour, and according to labor organizers, shoddy wiring and locked gates are frequent at Bangladeshi clothing factories despite their highly flammable contents. Over the past five years, nearly 500 workers have died in a series of gruesome fires.

Islam was last seen Wednesday evening outside the offices of BCWS, after having closed the office early because he believed the office was being monitored by Bangladeshi officials, according to information gathered by Nova. Two days later, a photo of Islam's body appeared in a Bangladeshi newspaper alongside a report about unidentified remains having been discovered. His wife recognized the photo.

Islam's body bore signs of brutal torture, according to local police and to a statement issued jointly by two American groups, the Worker Rights Consortium and the International Labor Rights Forum. The release states that labor rights organizations in Bangladesh and the United States believe the killing is associated with Islam's work on behalf of apparel workers who sew garments for suppliers to major U.S. retailers and brands.

One reason for their suspicions is that Islam had been previously detained and tortured in connection with his efforts on behalf of workers, according to Nova. Two years ago, Islam told his colleagues that he had been detained and beaten by Bangladeshi intelligence officials. He said the officials demanded that he write a letter implicating his colleagues at BCWS in instigating unruly labor protests that damaged some factory buildings. Islam refused, but told colleagues he had managed to escape his captors.

One of those implicated in the protests was Kalpona Akter, the head of BCWS, who told ABC News in a recent interview that she was concerned that her group and others could face intimidation or even jail time if they continued to fight for safer working conditions and better pay in Bangladesh.

In her interview, Akter told ABC News that she was willing to accept the risk involved in fighting for better working conditions.

"I was the worker," she said. "I have experienced [working] 23 days in a row…I was sleeping in shop floor. I was taking sometime shower in toilets. I was drinking unsafe water. I have been slapped by the supervisor. So I don't want to see anymore workers go the same way."

Nova told ABC News he believed that U.S. companies should use their leverage inside Bangladesh to improve conditions for workers.

"For two years, labor rights groups have been calling on Walmart and other companies that produce in Bangladesh to use their power to protect the BCWS staff, and other labor rights advocates, from the government's campaign of repression," said Nova. "Instead, they just increase their production in the country, which sends exactly the wrong message to the government and the factory owners."

PVH Corp., Nike, Ralph Lauren and Walmart did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar212012

Workers Die at Factories Used by Tommy Hilfiger

Amy Sussman/Getty Images (NEW YORK) -- More than a year after 29 people were trapped in a fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh used by well-known American clothing brands, an ABC News investigation found that the retailer is right back in business at the factory. And labor groups say dangerous conditions such as locked gates and shoddy wiring persist in a country where nearly 500 workers have died in garment factory fires over the past five years.

In advance of the ABC News report, the company that produces the Tommy Hilfiger line announced it would be the first company whose clothes were being made during the deadly blaze to demand changes -- committing to spend more than $1 million to enforce a set of safety reforms demanded by labor rights groups. Among them, an independent fire inspector and reports about safety conditions that are made public.

"I think raising the bar is necessary," Hilfiger told ABC News. "And that is what we're doing -- raising the bar."

ABC News first approached Hilfiger with questions about safety conditions in February after his company, PVH, had been identified by labor groups as one of the companies least receptive to their efforts to improve working conditions in Bangladesh.

"Just in recent weeks, three workers were killed at two separate factories producing clothing for Tommy Hilfiger," said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, one of several labor groups that has been pushing for higher safety standards in Bangladesh. "They say they're trying to improve conditions. They say they care about the rights of workers. They say they're committed to preventing fires and other tragedies in places like Bangladesh. But when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, they don't do it."

Known more popularly as Phillips-Van Heusen, Hilfiger's parent company was one of the companies whose clothing was being made in the building where Bangladesh suffered one of its most devastating fires in recent history.

Twenty-nine workers who were making clothes for PVH, as well as Gap, Kohl's and other popular American companies, perished in the blaze. The fire seemed to encapsulate in one tragic incident the range of dangers that have for years faced the low wage workers who stitch together American garments. Electrical wiring overloaded by sewing equipment is believed to have sparked the flames in the high-rise building. Dozens of workers, breaking for lunch at a make-shift canteen on the roof, were unable to descend smoke-filled stairwells and were trapped far out of reach of ladder trucks. The building, like most factories in Bangladesh, lacked fire escapes, sprinklers, and other modern safety equipment. As the flames intensified -- fueled by piles of clothes and fabric -- workers trying to flee said they found at least one of the factory's gates padlocked. Several were forced to create ropes from rolls of fabric to attempt to scale down the side of the building.

Mohammed Ariful Islam, a survivor, told ABC News he tried to escape down a stairwell from the 11th floor, but the smoke was too thick.

"I managed to break one of the windows -- the glass in the window," Islam told ABC News through a translator. "I broke open the iron grid and there was a roll of cloth fabric lying on the floor. So I threw it down [the side of the building] and used that as a rope."

As he climbed down, other workers were leaping from the windows above him. He believes he had made it down to the 7th floor when one of the plummeting bodies struck him, and he lost his grip and began to fall himself, sustaining severe injuries to his back.

"He doesn't remember anything," the translator said. "He only regained his consciousness in the evening when he woke up in the hospital."

ABC News made repeated attempts to interview officials from PVH, Gap, and Kohl's, as well as the owner of the factory where the blaze occurred. Initially, none agreed to respond to questions about the fire or steps taken in its aftermath. Nova, one of those involved in negotiating on behalf of injured workers and relatives of the dead, said the tragedy initially prompted the brands to pledge major improvements to safety. Companies doing business with the factory at the time of the fire agreed to contribute $37,500 per company to a fund for the relatives of those who died. The companies also collaborated on other fire safety ideas, including an educational video aimed at workers. But Nova said there was little beyond that.

As the initial burst of news attention from the fire began to fade, the brands grew less and less responsive, Nova said.

PVH CEO Emanuel Chirico later told ABC News that Nova's assertion was "false" and "totally offline." He said the brands did not lose interest in a solution, but instead had reached a point in the negotiation where it became difficult to persuade so many different parties to find common ground on a solution. "He's wrong about [us] blocking an agreement," Chirico said. "We were trying for a global solution."

In the meantime, more Bangladeshi workers were dying as they made clothes for PVH and other popular American brands. In one incident, a worker died when an elevator cable snapped. In another, at a plant known as the Eurotex factory, smoke from a boiler explosion led a panicked group of workers to flood to the factory exits. Workers say they found the exit gated and padlocked. Two workers were trampled to death. Weeks before the boiler blew, a German garment company pulled out of Eurotex, stating in a letter obtained by ABC News that "the state of the building is unacceptable with a high risk involved for all those working there." PVH continued to make Hilfiger clothes there on a short-term arrangement to help the company meet the holiday rush. (After the explosion, PVH pulled out of Eurotex.)

ABC News approached Hilfiger in New York to discuss the safety conditions, as he met with reporters backstage ahead of a promotional show during New York's Fashion Week. Asked about the 2010 fire and the two subsequent incidents, he said his company maintained a "gold standard" for worker safety.

"I can tell you that we no longer make clothes in those factories," Hilfiger said. "We pulled out of all of those factories."

Shipping records showed, however, that Hilfiger clothes continued to ship from two of the three factories where deadly incidents had occurred. PVH officials called ABC News the next day and asked if Hilfiger could return for a follow-up interview to correct his misstatements, along with Chirico, the company's chief executive.

Hilfiger told ABC News he had "made a mistake" when he said the company had pulled out of Bangladesh. The company left Eurotex, but remained in the other two factories to serve as "a positive force" in urging the owners to improve working conditions, Chirico said. "You need to have a voice at the table to get changes made as you go forward."

"That's one of the reasons I'm here today," Chirico said. "I think this expose is -- I'm trying to use this terrible situation as a catalyst for more change."

Following the interview, Chirico told ABC News the company had reached an agreement with labor rights groups to do more in Bangladesh. The agreement makes PVH the first brand to agree to impose fire safety standards on the factories where its clothes are made, and help pay for an independent inspector to "design and implement a fire safety inspection program based on internationally recognized workplace safety standards." The company agreed to commit between $1 million and $2 million to finance the program.

"PVH is the first company to commit to this landmark program," the company said in a statement to ABC News.

Nova agreed, saying the reform deal agreed to by PVH is "not another voluntary, non-binding, set of unenforceable corporate promises -- it is a binding, enforceable agreement under which the participating brands must open up their factories in Bangladesh to public scrutiny and must make these factories safe."

He said the goal of advocacy groups now is to "compel more brands and retailers to accept the obligations of this program so that it can be fully implemented and, we hope, transform the apparel industry in Bangladesh from the most dangerous in the world for workers to an industry that is fundamentally safe."

Gap is reported to be involved in negotiations. The company sent ABC News a statement saying it, too, had taken steps to try and improve conditions at the factory where the fire occurred, as well as at other factories in Bangladesh. Gap called the issue "complex," and says a solution will involve the Bangladesh government, factory owners and labor groups. The statement said the company is conducting ongoing inspections of the factories it hires to make its clothes and has continued to monitor progress.

"The devastating fire … in Bangladesh remains a poignant reminder of the need for sustainable solutions to improve factory workplace safety across the country's apparel industry," the statement says. "More than a year later, the memories of this tragedy remain top of mind at Gap Inc., and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives."

Kohl's offered its response to ABC News questions on Tuesday, after several months of inquiries. "Kohl's has made a private donation to the humanitarian fund to help support the victims and their families affected by the tragic fire that occurred last year in Bangladesh. Our donation was equivalent to that of other U.S.-based retailers. We are committed to improving fire safety and continuing our discussions with the Global Works Foundations regarding participation in a Bangladesh fire safety project that they are planning."

Hameem, the company that owns the factory where the deadly fire occurred, did not respond to repeated calls and emails from ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio