Bangladesh Accord on Fire & Building safety to cease operations in country by end of Nov 2018 unless govt. grants extension

Bangladesh Accord

Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety was launched by trade unions and brands in May 2013 following the Rana Plaza factory building collapse the previous month that killed over a 1,100 workers. It is a legally binding agreement designed to build a safe and healthy Bangladeshi Ready Made Garment (RMG) Industry.  Further information about the Accord can be found here

There was an initial agreement to extend the Accord beyond its inital 5 year term for another 3 years, the "Transition Accord".  However, a restraining order was issued by the High Court in Bangladesh in April 2018 on the Transition Accord. The result of this was that after 30th November the Accord could no longer operate.

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Article
10 December 2018

Bangladesh: Accord hearing further delayed until 17 December

Author: Industriall, UNI, CCC, ILRF, MSN, WRC

"Bangladesh Government Attempts to Paralyze Accord and Strip Its Independence", 10 December 2018

The Bangladesh government is using proceedings before the Supreme Court of Bangladesh to prevent the Accord on Fire and Building Safety from operating, thereby putting workers’ safety at risk...

At a hearing on 6 December where the Accord’s response to the constraints on its operations was tabled, the government requested another hearing on 10 December to allow time to consider the response. Today, the Government has requested, and been granted, a further delay until 17 December. With no clear direction, the future of the Accord continues to hang in the balance.

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 on Bangladesh’s trading partners and global apparel brands to press the government of Bangladesh to refrain from imposing these shocking impediments to the Accord continuing its life-saving work...

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Article
7 December 2018

Bangladesh: Accord hearing postponed

Author: The Daily Star

"Verdict on Accord plea deferred to Dec 10", 7 December 2018

The Supreme Court yesterday deferred the date for delivering verdict on the Accord's plea to stay on in Bangladesh to December 10 as it wants to hear more on the conditions placed by the government for extension of the tenure.

This is the third time that the apex court has adjourned the hearing on a petition filed by the Accord challenging a High Court directive that asked it to end all activities in Bangladesh on November 30...

Attorney General Murad Reza yesterday placed eight conditions of the government for extension of the Accord's tenure before the SC bench. The conditions include the platform cannot interfere in the labour issues in Bangladesh and it also cannot add new repair works in factories that are conducting remediation works as per the recommendations of Accord engineers....

The Accord... wants to operate without any conditions, said Md Yousuf Ali, an advocate of the SC and a respondent to the case...

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Article
5 December 2018

Bangladesh: Accord: blessing turns burden?

Author: Refayet Ullah Mirdha, Daily Star, Bangladesh

"Accord: blessing turns burden?", 28 November 2018

The call for suspending the operations of the Accord, an inspection and remediation platform of more than 200 global clothing retailers and brands, has been getting louder as garment factory owners are being forced to spend several billion dollars to improve workplace safety. It comes despite international community's call for its continuation.

...over the years, [Accord] has turned into “a nightmare from a blessing,” putting “excessive” pressure on factories to spend billions of dollars on compliance issues even as apparel prices fall, exporters say...[The Ready-Made Garment exporters interviewed by The Daily Star] do not want any more extension for the Accord...“The factories bear all the brunt of additional expenses while the signatory brands keep on bargaining for cheaper prices. It is as if owners alone are responsible for improving the workplace conditions while the buyers will not spend a single penny for the purpose,” said [one] factory owner...

[The] research director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said he was in favour of a brief extension of the Accord [to] give the local inspection body, Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC)...some time before it becomes fully functional... [The] president of Sommilito Garments Shomik Federation, a workers' rights group, supports the idea... [The] Commerce Minister...said, “We don't need them anymore.”...

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Article
3 December 2018

Bangladesh: High Court temporarily lifts restraining order & schedules new hearing on Accord's future

Author: Simone Preuss, FashionUnited

"Update: What is happening with the Bangladesh Accord?", 3 December 2018

At the beginning of the year, international brands were urged to join the new Transition Accord 2018, the successor of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh... The new Accord was to guarantee a smooth transition. However... the government of Bangladesh managed a restraining order on the Accord by the Bangladesh High Court, which was due to take effect on 30th November.

During a hearing on that day, the High Court scheduled a new hearing for Thursday, 6th December, and has lifted the restraining order until that date. The hearing took place amidst mounting international pressure and calls from the international community for the permanent removal of the order as an expulsion of the Bangladesh Accord would have grave consequences for the workers and not only the garment industry in Bangladesh but worldwide...

... On Thursday, all eyes will be on Bangladesh once again to see how the saga on garment worker safety continues.

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Article
29 November 2018

Bangladesh set to eject Accord following court issued restraining order unless govt. intervenes

Author: Michael Safi, Guardian (UK)

"Bangladesh to eject safety inspectors brought in after Rana Plaza disaster", 28 November 2018

An international inspection regime put in place after the collapse of a Bangladesh garment factory killed more than 1,100 people will be forced to leave the country on Friday, with activists warning of “profound and lasting” consequences for worker safety...

A restraining order imposed by the Bangladesh high court will come into force on 30 November, forcing the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh to close its Dhaka office, limiting its ability to inspect thousands of factories supplying clothes for brands including H&M, Esprit and Primark.

The European parliament has expressed “serious concern” at the prospect of the Accord being ejected from Bangladesh, with around 1,450 factories covered by the initiative still in need of urgent safety upgrades – including more than half without adequate fire alarm systems...

Rob Wayss, the executive director of the Accord, said he was “guardedly optimistic” the Bangladesh government would ask the high court to allow it stay in the country. “We’re hopeful but not certain the government will make a submission to the court,” he said...

Brands have raised concerns the closure of the Accord’s local office could spark protests and activism in the west that would taint their Bangladesh operations...

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Article
27 November 2018

Bangladesh: Commerce Minister criticises Accord for slow remediation

Author: The Daily Star, Bangladesh

 

“Tofail blasts Accord”, 13 November 2018

Commerce Minister...yesterday [12 November] came down hard on the Accord for its intent to sever business ties with 532 garment factories for their alleged poor progress in remediation…

The owners of the factories have already spent Tk 5 crore to Tk 30 crore for inspection and remediation of a factory.…

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh…is due to leave Bangladesh on November 30 after five and a half years. By then, if the 532 factories are not close to completing their remediation works they would become ineligible to supply to the Accord's over 200 signatory brands. “What progress has the Accord made...After five years they could only handover 20 out of more than 1,600 factories they have inspected so far...

The Accord...has been met with dire resistance from the government and the factory owners…The Supreme Court also said that the Accord cannot stay...

No industrial accident took place in Bangladesh over the last five years as the factory owners have already remediated as per the recommendations of the Accord engineers…Without having any professional registration and licence Bangladesh allowed the Accord to practice...

Still, 70 percent of the buyers are giving low prices for the garment product, despite improvements in quality, workplace safety and labour rights,,,[and] urged the foreign buyers to increase the prices of garment items as they spent billions of dollars on improving factory safety.

So far, the International Labour Organisation and the EU have expressed their satisfaction on the progress of inspection and remediation. If a long-term collaboration is not struck, the battle between buyers and manufacturers will continue...Brands and retailers must stop asking unrealistic and shorter delivery time. They must stop making the last-minute changes...

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Article
15 November 2018

Commentary: EU should make a stand towards the Bangladeshi government to improve labour conditions

Author: Ben Vanpeperstraete, Clean Clothes Campaign on Thomson Reuters Foundation

Bangladesh needs to get serious about workers’ rights and safety,  13 Nov 2018

[T]he Rana Plaza collapse...provided a wake-up call, and an urgency to improve...dire working conditions [in Bangladesh]. Within weeks, the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety was launched by trade unions and brands, successfully beginning to make factories safer...[T]he government of Bangladesh now suggests it will not allow its successor, the 2018 Transition Accord, to fulfill its role to ensure factory monitoring continues according to rigorous standards until such time that national institutions are up to this task...The EU should respond and make a stand towards the Bangladeshi government to improve labour conditions and to ensure full cooperation with the 2018 Transition Accord until an independent assessment concludes that the Bangladeshi national institutions are fit to take over.

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Article
15 November 2018

European Parliament slams Bangladesh Govt. on human rights & calls for continuation of the Accord

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

Today the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the Bangladesh Government to urgently act to address deteriorating human rights conditions. The resolution calls on the Government to address a multitude of human rights abuses such as the ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression and association, extra judicial killings, enforced disappearances, excessive use of force, anti-union discrimination and other labour rights abuses.   Notably the Resolution takes a strong stance on the Transition Accord on Fire and Building Safety calling on the Bangladesh government to allow the work of the Accord to continue beyond November 2018.  Currently, the Transition Accord is set to be expelled from Bangladesh on 30 November 2018. The resolution calls upon the European Commission to review the preferential trade status of Bangladesh, as the government of Bangladesh is violating the conditions set out by the Accord, the Sustainability Compact and the terms of their most favourable trade arrangement with the EU.

Download the full document here

Article
26 October 2018

Bangladesh: Accord to departs on Nov 30

Author: Refayet Ullah Mirdha, The Daily Star, Bangladesh

"Accord departs Nov 30"

The government will not extend the tenure of the Accord [a platform of nearly 200 mainly European retailers] beyond November 30, ending the hopes of the European agency for factory inspection and remediation to stay on in Bangladesh for three more years…

A few months ago the Supreme Court said there is no scope for extension of the tenure of the Accord, so the government cannot do anything more on this matter…[T]he Accord has started handing over the remediated factories to the RCC [Remediation Coordination Cell], an entity under the labour and employment ministry formed in May last year.

…a total of 60 engineers have been recruited for running the operations of RCC, formed to oversee the remediation and inspection after the departure of the Accord and Alliance [the North American inspection and remediation agency] from Bangladesh…

The RCC will recruit another 40 engineers soon to take the tally past 100, which is enough for skilful operation of the platform. Since the RCC has been formed in consultation with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), it has also sponsored some skilled engineers for the RCC.

...Rob Wayss, executive director of the Accord, said the agency submitted a transition plan to the labour ministry in the middle of September...

The factories that were handed over to the RCC have completed the remediation of safety hazard findings...

[T]he Alliance's tenure will automatically come to an end at the close of this year as it did not apply for an extension…

 

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Article
24 October 2018

Commentary: What about the sustainability of compliance after the Bangladesh Accord and Alliance?

Author: Rubana Huq, The Daily Star, Bangladesh

"Perhaps Platform S?"

When Accord and Alliance came to town, the brands and retailers had offered assurance of business continuity and were paying for the audits and assessments. Taking financial responsibility for factory remediation was…the manufacturer's end of the bargain. In five years [a] total [of] 1,159 factories have gone out of business. In response to growing demands of remediation, Bangladeshi manufacturers have either chosen to grow or quit…

…Even with increased capacities, manufacturers will continue receiving orders with lesser margins and a lower FOB (Free on Board) price…

After five years, with the possibility of Accord coming to an end on November 30, 2018 and Alliance on December 31, brands are left wondering about the future of the readymade garment industry in Bangladesh with respect to compliance codes…

The RCC [Remediation Coordination Cell] was set up in May 2017 to supervise and monitor the remediation of factories under the Bangladesh government's National Initiative. Out of the 809 National Initiative factories undergoing follow-up by Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), 107 are fully remediated...

Ultimately, RCC hopes to offer a “one-stop-shop” service issuing factory building, fire, electrical and occupancy permits.

Since the industry is very familiar with the initial rules of engagement focusing on structural, fire and electrical integrity, all we need today is a private-sector-led structure to sustain all the improvement that has been made… For easy reference, let's call it Platform S (S for shomman, meaning “respect” in Bengali)…

If the industry is subjected to prescriptions from stakeholders from abroad, then the basic ability to reform ourselves will be in doubt…The best way forward would be a way to transition into a plan of self-monitoring initiated by the industry itself, which will be appropriate for the owners, workers, brands, unions and the rest.

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