Retailers yet to sign safety accord

Three Australian retailers using low-cost labour in Bangladesh are yet to sign an accord that will require safety inspections at the country's overcrowded garment factories within nine months.

Three Australian retailers using low-cost labour in Bangladesh are yet to sign an accord that will require safety inspections at the country's overcrowded garment factories within nine months.

The accord, led by a coalition of trade unions, has been signed by 70 global retailers and several unions and is enforceable by law.

ABC TV's Four Corners program last month revealed Coles, Target, Cotton On and Forever New were among the companies manufacturing clothing in Bangladesh, where a factory collapse in April killed more than 1100 people. Fairfax Media also reported Kmart, Big W and Rivers were among Western companies using low-cost labour in the south Asian country.

A list of signatories to the accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh was published by trade union IndustriALL late on Monday.

The signatories have agreed to hand over information about the factories they use in Bangladesh to New York-based group Fair Factories Clearinghouse by next week. The group will then publish the names and locations of their factories.

The list of signatories includes Cotton On, Forever New and Wesfarmers brands Kmart and Target. So far, Coles - also a Wesfarmers brand - Big W, and Rivers have not signed the accord.

A Big W spokesman said the brand, owned by Woolworths, still had intentions to sign the accord.

"We are in touch with IndustriALL regarding how it will be implemented," he said.

An IndustriALL spokesman said: "The door won't be closed to new signatories joining."

A Coles spokeswoman said the company was winding up contracts in Bangladesh and therefore had no need to sign the agreement.

"We have one small contract remaining with a supplier in Bangladesh, which will be completed in the next few weeks and we have no plans to place further contracts in the country," she said.

"If we decide to source from Bangladesh in the future we will audit any factory we work with and we would sign the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord."

As part of the accord, companies have agreed to an initial inspection of all garment factories that produce clothing for their brands within nine months. The inspection will flag any serious safety or fire hazards, as well as urgent repairs needed.

By signing the accord, companies agree to fund any safety upgrades deemed necessary.