After the collapse of Rana Plaza building housing five garment factories in April 2013, that claimed thousands of lives, the event shook the global conscience. The incident raised serious questions about the hazardous and unsafe conditions garment factory workers spend their entire life in, to create clothes for popular western brands. Several steps were taken, holding brands sourcing from such unsafe factories responsible for ensuring safe working condition for the garment workers.
One such measure was ‘Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety’, an independent, legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions designed to work towards a safe and healthy Bangladeshi readymade garment industry. With just 100 days left before the agreement expires, a statement from Clean Clothes Campaign has urged brands like Marks and Spencer, Next, Sainsbury’s, Metro Group, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Dansk Supermarked, who are still dragging their feet.
Brands urged to sign the 2018 Transition Accord
The global union signatories to the Accord, IndustriAll and UNI, and the four witness signatories, Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Maquila Solidarity Network and Worker Rights Consortium have called upon the garment companies to continue their involvement to create a safe and sustainable garment industry in Bangladesh and to sign its successor, the 2018 Transition Accord.
“Not signing the 2018 Accord means that one hundred days from now workers will be left in unmonitored factories. As a consequence, garment brands will fall short on their due diligence obligations to keep the workers in their supply chain safe,” said Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator of Clean Clothes Campaign in a statement.
The 2018 Transition Accord will continue the work of inspecting factories in Bangladesh, identifying safety hazards, and ensuring that they are corrected. As of today, a statement from Clean Clothes Campaign states that 109 garment companies have signed the 2018 Accord, covering more than two million workers. However, many garment companies still to reconfirm their commitment to the safety of the Bangladeshi workers in their supply chain.
According to Jenny Holdcroft, assistant general secretary of IndustriAll, “There is still no credible alternative to the Accord to protect worker safety in Bangladesh. It is simply not an option for brands to go back to the company-led programs that so clearly failed to prevent large-scale factory tragedies before. Signing the 2018 Accord is the only way for companies to meet their due diligence obligations to ensure that Bangladeshi garment workers can work in safe factories.”
The one hundred-day warning is also aimed at encouraging garment companies that are not part of the current Accord, including those who have joined the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a corporate-led safety programme, to sign the 2018 Accord.
“The need for safety committees and an ongoing inspection programme will continue because a factory can be safe one day, and then the fire doors are blocked the next. As long as the Bangladeshi government is not yet ready to assume this responsibility, the Accord will continue to provide the training, engineering expertise, and accountability structures necessary to make garment work safer,” added Christy Hoffman, deputy general secretary of UNI global union.
The Bangladesh Accord was initiated in May 2013, in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza building collapse of April 2013, in which 1,134 workers were killed. It was created as a credible system to monitor and remediate factories of signatory brands and to train workers in the field of safety.
Picture:Clean Clothes Campaign website