The announcement to prolong the Accord — a legally binding accord established in 2013 to safeguard the safety of Bangladeshi garment factory employees that has been out of the spotlight for more than a year – by two years has caused concern among the country’s apparel exporters.
On Wednesday, the brands and international labour organisations will officially sign the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry (1 September). However, factory owners have already begun to speculate about how the new Accord will operate and what additional pressures may be placed on them.
The extension of the Accord on fire and building safety in Bangladesh – also went by Bangladesh Accord – has created panic among garment factory owners. Labour leaders associated with the Accord, however, have expressed their satisfaction with the new initiative. The issue came up for discussion at the board meeting of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) last Saturday.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Women’s Employers’ Association (BGMEA) has said in a press release that no organisation or body can operate in Bangladesh without the approval of the government. No organisation but the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) has the legal authority to operate in the country to oversee the safety issues in apparel factories, it added.
BGMEA president Faruque Hassan: “The Accord recommendation for safety gears used to have strings attached, like the purchase must be from a specific firm”.
Local labour leaders said the new Accord will work with issues such as human rights, health and freedom of labour association. Previous factory monitoring would be limited to worker safety.
Local labour leaders say they are happy since now there will be scopes for getting justice if an apparel worker is persecuted. International labour organisations had been expressing concern over labour issues with the absence of Accord.
Despite the prolongation of the Accord, Golam Moazzem believes the RSC should handle Bangladesh’s clothing issues. “If the RSC intended to bring new topics to its jurisdiction, it might have consulted with the ministries,” he said.
Accord, which was founded in 2013, managed 1,500 factories, while the Alliance for Bangladesh Workers Safety, which was formed by a US buyer, controlled another 600 garment units. Later, Nirapon took over as the US supervisor.
Aside from the international projects, the labour ministry’s National Initiative oversees approximately 750 factories.