Plans to extend the Accords mandate in Bangladesh have suffered another delay

Plans to extend the Accord's mandate in Bangladesh have suffered another delay

The right of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh to continue working in the country has been thrown into renewed uncertainty after the high court extended an injunction preventing the government from prolonging its operations.

The ruling of 16 May prevents the government from implementing a plan to extend the Europe-based Accord's mandate for another six months after its original five-year term expires on 31 May.

An initial decision to halt any extension of the mandate was made on 4 April, also by the High Court, and this stay has now been extended for an additional three months.

The decision was prompted by a legal challenge by Mostafizur Rahman, chairman of Chittagong-based apparel maker Smart Jeans Ltd, preventing the government from renewing the Accord's mandate before its current winding up deadline of 31 May.

Smart Jeans is unhappy with the Accord, because it has been preventing its member brands from sourcing from the manufacturer, saying the factory is not "safe" for workers. However, the Accord's north American counterpart, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, cleared it for sales to its brands – declaring Smart Jeans operations to be safe.

This has highlighted the lack of coordination between the two inspection agreements – both of which started life after the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 that killed more than 1,100 workers.

Smart Jeans lawyer M Yusuf Ali told just-style he had "challenged the termination" of Smart Jeans' Accord contacts' contracts, with the legal grounds being "the lack of coordination among Accord, Alliance and the National Tripartite Committee (NTC)" – a government body linking labour, the government and industry.

The Accord declined to comment, saying it was not in a position to comment on this legal matter "at this time."

"This is an ongoing legal proceeding," Rob Wayss, Accord executive director and acting chief safety inspector, told just-style.

Garment exporters also refused to make comments on the issue.

"It's a sub judice matter. The BGMEA [Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association] has no role in it," says Mahmud Hasan Khan, vice president of the industry lobbyist group. "We'll conform to what the court decides," he told just-style.

Meanwhile, the overall remediation progress rate of fire and building safety issues identified in initial Accord inspections reported or verified as fixed has reached 84%, according to a progress report to April 2018.