The Brands which have signed the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement are as below:
Abercrombie & Fitch
El Corte Ingles
Hess Natur-Textilien GmbH
Marks and Spencer
Scoop NYC / Zac Posen
Sean John Apparel
Shop Direct Group
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.
- 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
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!).