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5 years on from Rana Plaza building collapse - labour rights organizations urge brands to sign renewed Bangladesh Accord on Fire & Building Safety

24 April 2018 marks five years since the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh that crushed 1,134 people to death and injured over 2,000 others. The collapse of the eight-story building, which housed over five garment factories supplying global brands, remains one of the worst industrial accidents to date.

The legally-binding Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, signed between IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and 222 apparel brands, was set up in response to the factory collapse. The Accord safety programme has saved lives and dramatically improved garment factory safety in Bangladesh, with the remediation progress rate across all covered Accord factories at 84%.

With the current Accord expiring in May, workers and labour organizations are urging brands to sign the 2018 Transition Accord that will take over the work of the current Accord once the latter expires.

IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary, Jenny Holdcroft, stated: “Brands that don’t sign the 2018 Accord are getting a free ride from the brands that do, benefiting from being able to source from safer factories without contributing to the joint effort. Support for the Accord is critical while there is still no effective national regulatory body in place that can guarantee factory safety.”

As of 18 April 2018, 144 global brands have signed the new 2018 Accord, covering more than 1,300 factories and approximately two million workers. This page tracks efforts and developments around the 2018 Accord.

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18 April 2018

Five years after Rana Plaza, how much has changed in Bangladesh?

Author: Whitney Bauck, Fashionista (USA)

12 April 2018

[H]ow effective has the Accord been in improving the lives of those who make clothing in Bangladesh, one of the most significant garment exporters in the world? A symposium at the Ford Foundation in New York City on Tuesday convened Accord leadership, Bangladeshi labor activists, academics, journalists and human rights experts to discuss how far we've come — and what needs to happen as the Accord nears the end of its five-year agreement.

Despite the Accord's many accomplishments in the realm of building safety, laborer rights have woefully far to go in Bangladesh. A big part of this has to do with a lack of "freedom of association," or laborers' rights to join unions...Numerous participants at the forum also pointed out that years of voluntary Corporate Social Responsibility programs mostly failed to implement the kind of building safety in Bangladesh that the Accord has been able to accomplish.

Deputy director of the Accord Michael Bride made clear that the Accord has moved the needle some when it comes to helping garment workers know their rights, by distributing pamphlets and holding seminars with more than 2 million workers. Through these programs, the Accord has helped educate workers about a range of issues, like the fact that if a fire starts in the factory, they are not obligated to try and fight it themselves — an idea spread by factory owners who would rather lose a worker's life than see their building burn down. He also noted that a worker complaint hotline went from receiving 62 complaints in the first three years to receiving over 200 in the last 22 months — an increase he claims is a sign that workers are becoming more aware of their legal rights.

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18 April 2018

Five years after Rana Plaza, the need for the Bangladesh Accord persists

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

...“The Rana Plaza collapse has shown that the traditional audits have failed workers, and that in the absence of a credible and accountable alternative, the continuation of the legally-binding Accord is needed to prevent another disaster,” said Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum. “This should be acknowledged by brands that have not yet renewed their commitment to the 2018 Transition Accord and those that were part of the Alliance and followed by immediate action to join the Accord.”

Ineke Zeldenrust, International Coordinator at Clean Clothes Campaign, adds: “It is vital that existing plans to create an employment injury insurance system in Bangladesh are sped up, to ensure that if factory incidents do happen workers can count on a reliable system to provide them with compensation.”...

Basic facts

  • Accord engineers have inspected more than 2,000 ready-made garment factories and identified over 150,000 safety hazards.
  • More than 1.4 million garment workers have been informed about the most common factory safety hazards and their right to refuse unsafe work.
  • The Accord has resolved more than 195 safety complaints from workers and their representatives.
  • In January 2018, IndustriALL and UNI reached a US$2.3 million-dollar settlement with a multinational apparel producer under the legally-binding mechanism of the Accord, to pay for repairs at more than 150 of its supplier factories. It followed another successful settlement with a global brand at the Court of Arbitration in The Hague in December 2017.

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18 April 2018

What the Rana Plaza disaster changed about worker safety

Author: Nadra Nittle, Racked (USA)

13 April 2018

In 2018, Bangladeshi garment workers and their advocates have made inroads. A report released Tuesday by Mark Anner, director of the Center for Global Workers’ Rights at Penn State, says the accord has made more than 2.5 million laborers safer. On the same day, corporate and labor leaders met at the Ford Foundation in New York to review the predicament of Bangladesh’s garment workers today... Although working conditions have improved, wages are stagnant and overtime is the norm, due to fast fashion’s tight production deadlines. Now the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), which helped coordinate the Ford event, is urging apparel companies to show a deeper commitment to protecting workers’ rights. As a result of the accord, 97,000 of 132,000 hazards at factories in Bangladesh have been eliminated, Anner found. An additional 12,000 hazards have reportedly been addressed. They just await review by the accord’s independent group of inspectors... From 2014 to 2018, the number of factories in multipurpose buildings has dropped by 49 percent, from 155 factories to 79 factories... One reason the workers have seen improvements is that they’ve organized into unions... Unions can also train members to identify workplace hazards and report them... The minimum wage increased from $38 to $68 monthly, but it hasn’t risen in tandem with inflation. A 2016 report from the Global Living Wage Coalition suggested that the living wage in the country should be anywhere from $177 to $214 depending on the region.

[T]he accord is set to sunset next month. Last year, however, most of the companies that signed it decided to expand the agreement and its scope to May 2021. About 55 percent of the current accord members have agreed to do so, but some companies have yet to make the commitment. Abercrombie & Fitch is one of them, Foxvog says.

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3 April 2018

Why All Companies Sourcing Apparel from Bangladesh Should Join the 2018 Accord

Author: Liana Foxvog, International Labor Rights Forum, & Christie Miedema, Clean Clothes Campaign

...The final remaining renovations can save lives

...The vast majority of the lagging renovations should have been fixed months or even years ago. These include changes that could save lives, such as the removal of lockable and collapsible gates – still an issue in several factories...

Similarly worrying is the fact that 60% of the factories have yet to complete a full and proper installation of a fire detection and prevention system. Not being able to detect a fire early on hampers workers’ ability to escape a burning building....

Especially significant, in light of the critical issues highlighted by the Rana Plaza collapse, is the fact that 34% of the factories still lack a management load plan. Such a plan is essential to ensure that a multi-story factory is able to hold up all the floors and the weight of all the machinery and workers without risk of collapse.

Safety needs continuous guarding to prevent shortcuts

...Ensuring safe factories is a continuous process, which does not finish at the moment that all corrective action plans are deemed carried out....

Given how effective the Accord has been – the sheer numbers of renovations made and workers and managers trained – and the urgent need to make reforms permanent, there is no viable reason for an apparel company that sources from Bangladesh to not immediately join the 2018 Accord.

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23 February 2018

Labour signatories urge brands to sign onto 2018 Bangladesh Accord 100 days before current Accord ends

Author: IndustriALL

"100 days until current Accord ends – labour signatories urge brands to sign onto 2018 Accord", 22 February 2018

The global union signatories to the Accord, IndustriALL and UNI, and the four witness signatories, Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Maquila Solidarity Network and Worker Rights Consortium, call upon the garment companies that have not yet signed the 2018 Accord to do so as soon as possible...

The one hundred-day warning is also aimed at encouraging garment companies that are not part of the current Accord, including those who have joined the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a corporate-led safety programme, to sign the 2018 Accord. [also refers to Marks & Spencer, Next, Sainsbury’s, Metro Group, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Dansk Supermarked]

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