Bangladesh: Safety Accord ready to be implemented

After meeting the 45-day-deadline, the steering committee announced yesterday that it is ready to implement the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The five-year legal binding agreement is an effort by international labour organisations, NGOs and almost 70 international brands and retailers (see below for a complete list) to maintain minimum safety standards in the Bangladesh textile and garment industry, and planned to be extended to other countries as well.

“The Clean Clothes Campaign, as one of the witnesses to signing of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, congratulates the implementation team on the excellent progress that has been made, which has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of Bangladeshi garment workers. We welcome the strong commitment from brands to improving health and safety in Bangladeshi garment factories,” said Ben Vanpeperstraete of the Clean Clothes Campaign.

Among the implementation plan’s key highlights are initial inspections at all factories that will be completed within the next nine months. The aim is to identify grave hazards and the need for urgent repairs and to put plans for renovations and repairs in place where necessary. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, these will focus on “those issues that pose grave and immediate risks to workers, in particular inadequate emergency infrastructure and procedures (e.g., fire exits, fire training and evacuation) and fundamental flaws that could lead to a partial or total structural failure of a factory building.”

For those factories that have been identified as posing an “immediate threat to life and limb”, an emergency protocol will make sure that workers don’t have to wait nine months for action. In those cases, all companies using the factory will be informed immediately and “the factory owner told to cease operations pending further investigation and/or repairs”. For the first time, factory workers will be informed not only of the potential danger but also of their right to refuse to enter the potentially unsafe building. Moreover, all workers will be paid while the factory is closed to carry out the necessary repairs.

In terms of recruiting and training more safety inspectors and building a new team, the hiring process has started for the positions of chief safety inspector and executive director. Also, a governance structure has been established with a steering committee that consists equally of signatory companies, unions and an advisory board with “broad representation in Bangladesh”.

“The signatories agree that this joint effort is a credible and effective programme with a genuine commitment from all parties to work together. This is the only way to bring about long-term, sustainable change to the garment industry in Bangladesh,” commented Andy York, ethical trading manager at the N Brown Group, who, together with Aldi, C&A, Inditex, the Otto Group and PVH made up the brand and retailer part of the implementation team. It was further supported by IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union, the Clean Clothes Campaign and the Worker Rights Consortium.

To-date, the following 68 apparel companies and retailers have signed the Bangladesh Accord (in alphabetical order): Abercrombie & Fitch, Aldi North, Aldi South, Auchan, Bay City Textilhandels, Bestseller (Vila, Vero Moda, Only, Jack & Jones, Pieces), Benetton, Bonmarche, C&A, Camaieu, Carrefour, Charles Vögele, Comtex, COOP Denmark, Cotton On, Dansk Supermarked (Netto., Bilka), Daytex, Debenham, DK Company (Kaffe, Cream, Veto, Sorbet, Blend, Ichi), El Corte Inglés, Ernstings's Family, Esprit, Fat Face, Forever New, G-star, H&M, Helly Hansen, Hema, Hess Natur, Horizonte, IC Companys (Peak Performance, Tiger of Sweden, InWear/Matinique, Soaked in Luxory, Jackpot, Cottonfield), Inditex (Zara, Bershka), jbc, John Lewis, Juritex, Kmart, Kik, LC Waikiki, Leclerc, Lidl, Loblaw, Mango, Marks and Spencer, Metro, Mothercare, N Brown, New Look, Next, Otto Group, Primark, Puma, PVH (Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein), PWT Group (Texman, Wagner, Lindhberg), Rewe, s.Oliver, Scoop NYC/Zac Posen, Sainsbury's, Sean John, Scoop NYC, Shop Direct Group, Stockmann, Switcher, Target, Tchibo, Tesco, V&D, We Europe, Zeeman.