New International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry

Global trade unions and international apparel retailers who were signatories to the former Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh have renewed their agreement to continue legally-binding commitments to workplace safety in Bangladesh and other countries. The agreement maintains the legally binding provision for companies. Most importantly the scope has been expanded to other countries and other provisions, encompassing general health and safety.


Background


The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh was a game-changing agreement, originally signed by the European Union’s fashion brands in 2013 after the Rana Plaza building collapse which killed more than 1,100 workers and injured many more, mostly garment workers. Garment workers in Bangladesh used to die in the dozens and hundreds making t-shirts and sweaters for the world’s leading apparel brands.


Since 2013, the Accord had inspected and monitored remediation at 2,000 factories and trained over two million workers in health and safety.The renewed agreement preserves and advances the fundamental elements that made the Accord successful, including: respect for freedom of association; shared governance between labour and brands; a high level of transparency; safety committee training and worker awareness program; and a credible, independent complaints mechanism.


Key new features


Key new features of the International Accord called the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry include:

  • Broadening the coverage to general health and safety, rather than only fire and building safety.

  • A commitment to expand the work of the International Accord to at least one other country within the first two years. Feasibility studies will start immediately after signing.

  • A commitment to continue the health and safety programme in Bangladesh through a strong cooperation with the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) that remains as a tripartite body with participation of unions in its board.

  • Expansion of the scope of the agreement to address human rights due diligence along the brands’ global supply chains.

  • A commitment to jointly seek to include more signatory brands.

  • An optional streamlined arbitration process to enforce the Accord’s terms.


Expansion to other countries


Under the successor agreement, the Accord model will be expanded to other countries. Most likely, Pakistan—a country with a grim history of mass fatality fires in textile factories—will be first. A feasibility study for expansion will begin immediately. When a safety program has been designed for Pakistan (or another country, if the choice is to expand elsewhere first), all brands sourcing from that country will have the opportunity to participate.


Brands and retailers will be announced 1st of September


On September 1, the Accord will announce the first wave of brands and retailers that have signed the agreement. Every responsible apparel and textile brand – every brand that places any value on the lives of the workers who sew its clothes – will sign this new agreement.


It is especially important that brands and retailers that failed to sign the original Accord sign this one. These brands have consciously chosen to risk the lives of the workers in their contract factories; their recklessness must now end. Only brands that are willing to sign the new agreement will be able to avail themselves of inspections and other services from the RSC, ensuring a level-playing field without a double standard for brand accountability


Photo: IndustriALL Global Union

Sources: IndustriALL Global Union, The Daily Star, Workers Rights Consortium