The broad coalition of trade unions – led by IndustriALL and UNI – and 70 market leading clothing brands and retailers today announces the next steps to implement the historic Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
The signatories to the Accord, IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and the over 70 clothing brands and retailers, set themselves a 45 day period to draw up and agree on the implementation plan and 8 July is the deadline. The Accord represents a new era of collaboration and sincere efforts to make the Bangladeshi garment industry safe and sustainable through comprehensive inspections, repairs of factories, training and involvement of workers.
All parties to the five-year binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh are enthused by this milestone and the real work on the ground will begin soon.
Key highlights of the implementation plan include:
- Initial inspections to identify grave hazards and the need for urgent repairs. This will be completed within 9 months.
- An Interim Procedure to take effect when existing inspection processes or worker reports identify factories which require immediate remediation measures.
- Hiring process commenced for the Chief Safety Inspector and Executive Director positions.
- Governance structure established through a Steering Committee with equal representation of signatory companies and unions and an Advisory Board with broad representation in Bangladesh.
See the report of the implementation team attached for full details. The Accord will cover all factories producing for the signatory brands, opening them all up for safety inspections and further measures depending on the factory’s significance to the brand. Signatory brands and retailers guarantee that in every case where an unsafe factory is found funds will be available for the necessary safety upgrades.
The Accord will be governed by the Steering Committee with equal representation of labour and company members. The Steering Committee will be empowered to take decisions to resolve disputes, with the arbitration to be enforceable in a court of law in the company’s home country. The selection of the Arbitrator in this process will be governed by the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration 1985. All action of the Accord will be transparent and publically reported.
IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina stated:
This historic, legally binding Accord will effect tangible change on the ground and help make the Bangladeshi garment industry safe and sustainable. Voluntary initiatives have proved insufficient, as 1,800 Bangladeshi garment workers have died in factory fires and building collapses during the past seven years. A profound change is possible only with a strong coalition between trade unions, international brands and retailers, Bangladeshi authorities and employers, and with worker involvement in the workplace with guaranteed freedom of association.
UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings commented:
Now the real work starts. The terms of reference and the rules of the Accord are set in place, we can now identify the best people and put together the team in Bangladesh who will be charged with carrying out this vital work. These are exciting moments. The world is watching.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) acts as an independent chair to enhance the Accord’s implementation. The labour NGOs Clean Clothes Campaign and the Workers’ Rights Consortium played an important role in supporting the Accord and will continue to do so throughout its five year duration.
Of fundamental importance to the Accord is that it includes a central role for workers and their representatives. Another central aspect of the Accord is that it commits signatory companies to staying in Bangladesh for at least the first two years of the Accord. The signatory companies to the Accord are making serious and sincere commitments to working with trade unions to clean up their production chain in Bangladesh. They can all be held up as standard-setters in the industry.
[Ed. note: About 60% of the exports of clothing from Bangladesh go to Europe. Since almost all major European clothing brands and retail chains are participating in this innovative agreement, it should provide real gains in workplace safety in Bangladesh factories. But 25% of the exports go to the USA, where the major retail chains,and most clothing brands refuse to participate in the Accord. Fearing that the international Accord will be legally enforceable and actually require them to go beyond their usual lip service, Walmart and Gap have led resistance to signing an enforceable multi-party agreement, vaguely promising to do something unilaterally on their own. Therefore it is incumbent on us to wholeheartedly support the ongoing campaign by United Students Against Sweatshops, the Bangladesh Workers’ Solidarity Network and the Worker Rights Consortium against Walmart and Gap to end their profitable complicity in deathtraps. – Paul Garver]
Filed under: Global organizing, Organizing, Solidarity, workplace safety Tagged: | Bangladesh, Bangladesh garment workers, Gap, IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union, United Students Against Sweatshops, Walmart