Garment manufacturers of Bangladesh have opposed the time extension of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety by three more years, which was announced on 29 June. “We don’t accept the new agreement. It is a unilateral decision by the Accord,” said Siddiqur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). “We have not been included in the board of the Accord and the signatories did not even show the draft copy of the new agreement,” Rahman added.
The 2012’s factory fire at Tazreen Fashions and the 2013’s collapse of the Rana Plaza made a great concern about the working conditions and labor related issues in the Readymade Garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh, and led to the adoption of the multi-stakeholder agreements Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord) at the international level and the National Tripartite Plan of Action (NTPA) at the domestic level. The tenure of Accord will complete in the next year, according to the agreement. However, the sudden announcement of its time extension, before completing fixed five-year tenure, has really shocked the Bangladeshi’s garment millers as well as the government of the country.
Figure 1: The IndustriALL Global Union and the UNI Global Union, together with brand representatives from C&A and LC Waikiki, announced the new Bangladesh Accord.
Describing the decision of time extension of the Accord in Bangladesh as unilateral, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed told journalists, “The signatories could have discussed (it) with the stakeholders before taking such an important decision”. “The accord’s signatories could have sent a proposal to the government. I asked the diplomats to send the extension of the accord as a proposal. We will discuss the proposal and then take the decision,” said Ahmed. The diplomats included US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, Canadian High Commissioner Benoît-Pierre Laramée and EU Ambassador Pierre Mayaudon. They declined to comment, he added.
Figure 3: Christy Hoffman, Deputy General Secretary of UNI Global Union
IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union announced a three-year new agreement at the OECD Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct in Paris, which held on 29 and 30 June. The leading fashion brands are redoubling their commitments to responsible global supply chains by entering into a new Accord with global trade unions, according to a statement.
Local garment manufacturers, RMG industry experts and government described it as unilateral announcement, which was not expectable by them. Garments millers said they had hoped that the signatories of the new agreement would include the government and BGMEA in the executive body of the Accord. However, this has not happened.
Number of industrial accident significantly been reduced in the garment sector since the Rana Plaza building collapse because of strong inspection, remediation and monitoring by the experts of the European-led Accord and the North American-led Alliance. However, it is a great concern that the millions of workers will be handled by the Accord, as it will work on freedom of association and improvement of labor rights.
According to the new announcement, the new Accord also adds new worker protections. Valter Sanches, general-secretary of the IndustriALL, said in a statement, “The Accord can be expanded to other sectors, and as worker representatives, we urge you to acknowledge the new Accord’s significance as an important step towards responsible global supply chains.”
Figure 3: Jenny Holdcroft, Assistant General Secretary, IndustriALL Global Union.
AK Azad, Managing Director of Ha-Meem Group, a leading garment exporter, recently said, “The Accord has done excellent work in the first phase as buildings are safe now thanks to its intensive inspection, remediation and monitoring. However, we don’t want the extension of the Accord in case freedom of association as it is an internal issue of Bangladesh.”
However, local factory owners say proper implementation of the amended labor law would protect the workers’ rights and the local union leaders would play a vital role in formation of trade unions at factory level and in ensuring freedom of association.
They called for strengthening of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) and the Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) for fortifying workplace safety and better labor rights.