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Campaigners target Gap over Bangladesh factory safety

Retailer still refuses to back garment workers' rights 1 year after Rana Plaza disaster

Campaigners gathered in front of Gap’s flagship London store yesterday in protest against the brand’s refusal to back Bangladesh safety rights.

The Bond Street shop entrance was blocked with rubble, clothes and debris — a graphic representation of the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building, which killed 1129 people a year ago.

Anti-poverty campaign War on Want believes Gap, which had clothing made at Rana Plaza, has a duty to sign the Accord on Factory and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

The campaign’s executive director John Hilary said: “Gap has refused to sign that accord and that’s why we are here today.”

Gap, which operates around 150 stores across the country, has instead opted to join the so-called Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety together with other retail giants such as Walmart and American Apparel.

The alliance, unlike the accord, is not legally binding and works rather on the member’s voluntary basis.

Bangladeshi National Garment Workers Federation president Amirual Haque Amin said: “If these voluntary monitoring procedures worked Rana Plaza would never had happened.”

Mr Amin stood alongside protesters, taking part in a human chain that covered the entire bloc of the Gap building.

Many want to see Rana Plaza’s former clients apologise to the families of the victims, too.

“Every brand was aware of the danger at Rana Plaza,” said activist Sam Maher.

Ms Maher like Mr Amin believes it was the irresponsibility and negligence of companies such as Gap that left many Bangladeshi children orphaned and countless families struggling to survive without their main source of work.

Among the protesters was also acclaimed fashion designer Katharine Hamnett, famous in the 1980s for her T-shirts with large letterhead slogans modelled by Naomi Campbell.

“I’m here because we abolished slave labour 150 years ago and it’s back, alive and kicking in Oxford Street,” Ms Hamnett shouted onto a megaphone.

The protest moved up the road to the Benetton shop where other activists were trying to raise awareness of the brand’s refusal to pay to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.


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