Analysis of the Fire and Building Safety Accord Being Implemented in Bangladesh

bangladesh-factory-safety-accord2

The Brands which have signed  the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement are as below:

SIGNED
Abercrombie & Fitch
Aldi Nord
Aldi South
Auchan
Belotex
Benetton
Bestseller
Bonmarche
C&A
Camaieu
Carrefour
Charles Voegele
Comtex
Coop Danmark
Cotton On
Dansk
Daytex
Debenham
DK Company
El Corte Ingles
Ernstings’s Family
Esprit
Fat Face
Forever New
Gstar
H&M
Helly Hansen
Hema
Hess Natur-Textilien GmbH
Horizonte
Inditex
JBC
Jogilo
John Lewis
Juritex
Kik
Kmart (Australia)
LC WAIKIKI
Leclerc
Lidl
Loblaw
Mango
Marks and Spencer
Metro
Mothercare
N Brown
New Look
Next
Otto Group
Primark
PUMA
PVH
Rewe
S Olivier
Sainsbury
Schmidt Group
Scoop NYC / Zac Posen
Sean John Apparel
Shop Direct Group
Stockmann
Switcher
Target (Australia)
Tchibo
Tesco
Texman
Topgrade International
V&D
Varner Group
We Europe
Zeeman

A unique aspect of the Accord of Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is its legal enforcement. Section 5 of the Accord explicitly outlines the process of dispute resolution, in which the outcomes can be reinforced in the court of law. This feature is unique because previously established initiatives involving corporate accountability and labor rights are basically voluntary commitments. Many US companies refuse to sign the Accord based on this legal enforceability, fearing lawsuits. However, in essence the Accord’s legal obligations do not differ much from other business contracts companies routinely close.

Transparency and Reporting of the Accord is planned to be carried out accordingly;
Public Reports:
  • a single aggregated list of all factories in Bangladesh under the Accord
  • written inspection reports and if applicable remediation plans
  • quarterly aggregated reports summarizing industry compliance and review of findings.
  • protocol to be decided with the local authorities to ensure participating factories are not
  • penalized as a result of the transparency

Our Remarks:

We feel that the Accord is a great step forward in bringing Brands and Trade Unions in Bangladesh together with Global Unions and International NGOs on the same table to help the working conditions in Bangladesh which have been discussed so much internationally for its local importance and responsibility.

Bangladesh is a Country where the Ready Made Garment (RMG) Industry accounts for being the highest foreign currency earning medium as well as the biggest employment provider for the poorest of this developing Nation. Although there is employment, the lack of proper working condition or the meeting of basic worker rights have surfaced over and again through activists, anthropologists and NGOs across Bangladesh and abroad.

The need for the worker’s to have their own voice and participate in collective bargain with the factory owners or even the Brands, to express their perspective on their rights and conditions, and to associate, gave rise to Trade Unions which would represent the common workers and will be constituted of them. However, after decades of operation, the Trade Unions are yet to claim even more than 1% of the workers as being unionized under their umbrella.

Valid questions loom around the representative capacity of Trade Unions in Bangladesh with less than 1% Garment Workers with them. The transparency maintained by such representative bodies throughout this time with compensation processes, training processes etc have not been very efficient, and thus have lacked effectiveness to meet their objectives. The Accord consist of International NGOs as the witnesses, which minimal or no role of local NGOs.

Apart from the concerns and criticisms, which must remain to strengthen the movement for worker rights, the Accord still needs to be supported as being successful in bringing stakeholders across the table together with a common resolve to end the crisis facing an industry which have been benefited by the sweat and blood of the impoverished Bangladeshi Workers who constitute to supply chain of a Multi-Billion Dollar global Fashion Industry. It also advocates the importance for brands to continue their purchase from Bangladesh and not to abandon it in the cold and go for other impoverished Nations during its time of crisis in dealing with fragile factories created as a result of the corporate culture of profit maximization which follows an inhumane money-centric approach otherwise known as “Race to the Bottom”.

By saving the working women and men of Bangladesh from the unfair choice between “a meal and death by letting the race to the bottom continue” or “no meal and death by protesting or triggering change and being abandoned by brands”, the consumers, responsible business, other stake holders and interest groups can not only save the working class of Bangladesh but rather the entire developing world from having to go through “Extortion” by powerful Corporates. By supporting the progress of worker rights, or creating new ideas which can take the struggle of worker rights forward, responsible and humane consumers can play an important and moral role in ensuring Corporate Ethics which go a long way from Bangladesh and the Developing World into a more transparent and responsible Corporate Culture, which in turn strengthens global Politics and plays a major role in Establishing Global Peace and Alleviation of all forms of Discrimination and Injustices. The possibilities are endless.

It is important for us to strive forward to create a more positive culture for business and as common consumers which value life and prosperity over balance sheets. The struggle continues with this Accord, but does not end with it. It is important to analyze its journey, to take a closer look into its limitations and scope and follow up its progress and effect.

It is not only relevant to a Sector, it is relevant to everyone … anyone who is humane (and clothed!).

RISE Society

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Posted in Garment Worker Issues

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