The Banglaesh Accords: What It Is, And Why It Matters
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, also known as the Bangladesh Accord, is due to expire 31st August 2021. It originally expired on 31st May, but was extended for another 3 months to allow for further negotiations between parties.
What is the Bangladesh Accords
On the morning of 24th April 2013, factory workers pleaded to not enter the 8-storey building because of the noticeable cracks on the walls of the building. The building was structurally only able to handle 6 floors, but had 2 more levels added to it illegally. Supervisors ignored the warnings and threatened workers with paycuts if they did not comply. Moments later, one of the deadliest industrial disasters happened. The Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing 1,134 workers and injuring thousands more. This was a preventable disaster, and sent a wake up call to the entire garment industry.
Rana Plaza before the collapse
Rana Plaza after the collapse
What followed was the Bangladesh Accord, a multi-stakeholder agreement that is legally binding and enforceable. This means that every Signatory Company (H&M, Zara, Cotton On, etc) that signs this accord can be held accountable for any breaches. The Accord is governed by a 'Steering Committee' made up of equal representation of signatory companies, trade unions, and a chairperson from the International Labour Organisation.
Outline of the agreement
A qualified, independent Safety Inspector who is not employed by companies, trade unions or factories shall be appointed by the Steering Committee to conduct safety inspections at factories.
If there are corrective actions identified by the Safety Inspector, signatory companies will require their factories to implement corrective actions according to the report within a specified time-frame. While the factory is closed for renovations, they are still required to provide regular income and keep their workers employed. Signatory Companies are to ensure that it is financially feasible for these to take place.
Fire and Building Safety training programs have to be implemented at every factory under this Accord. Each factory must undergo training that will cover the importance of 'Freedom of Association' and the role of industrial relations. I.e, empowering workers to join unions and voice their concerns toward effective health and safety at workplaces.
A complaint process and mechanism is established for workers to complaint without fear of repercussions or threats to their livelihood.
Transparency & Reporting
The Steering Committee have to make information and updates on key aspects of this Accord publicly available. You can read more of those in this link.