Several of the Western world's largest clothing companies have signed onto a plan requiring them to help pay for garment factory safety improvements in Bangladesh.
The deal, announced Monday, came as authorities ended the search near Dhaka for victims of the world's worst-ever garment industry disaster. The death toll from the April 24 factory collapse near Dhaka stood at 1,127 as workers ended their search.
The safety deal brings together Sweden's H & M chain, the largest buyer of garments from Bangladesh; the Dutch-owned C&A chain, Inditex, owner of the Zara clothing chain, and two British retailers -- Primark and Tesco. Additionally, the New York-based PVH Corporation -- the parent company of the Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Izod brands -- agreed to upgrade a similar agreement reached in 2012.
The legally-binding pact calls for independent factory inspections with results made public, and mandatory repairs and renovations paid for by the Western companies.
Bangladesh, one of the world's largest apparel exporters, also pays one of the world's lowest monthly minimum wages -- $38. The low wages and lack of regulations attract billions of dollars in orders from Western retailers and apparel brands.
In a related development, the Dhaka government agreed Monday to allow the country's 3.6 million garment workers to form trade unions without the permission of factory owners.
The trade union agreement follows days of worker protests spawned by last month's factory collapse in the Savar district of Dhaka. The protests forced more than 300 garment factories to shut down.