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November 30, 2018

Bangladesh Accord future in doubt as hearing postponed

The Bangladesh High Court has postponed its hearing over the future of the Transition Accord in a move that leaves the alliance’s future in doubt for another week.

The Bangladesh High Court has postponed its hearing over the future of the Transition Accord in a move that leaves the alliance’s future in doubt for another week.

In May, the Court ordered the Transition Accord, as it is now known, to end its operations by 30 November. The safety alliance has since appealed the High Court’s decision to allow an extension to 2021 – the hearing for which took place yesterday.

The High Court has now scheduled a new hearing on 6 December and lifted the restraining order until that date, during which time the Accord will continue its operations. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), the hearing took place amidst mounting international pressure and calls from the international community for the permanent removal of the order.

“Given the grave consequences expulsion of the Bangladesh Accord would bring for workers and the overall garment industry, it is imperative that this threat be permanently ended next week,” it said.

The government’s Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) is set to oversee workplace safety and remediation once the Transition Accord ends. However, CCC believes it is not prepared to take on the responsibilities of the Accord’s inspection programme, despite the Government’s claims to the contrary.

“All evidence points to a lack of readiness, including a recent report by the Bangladesh Sustainability Compact – a cooperation agreement between Bangladesh, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Bangladesh and the International Labor Organization – which shows that the national inspectorate fails to act transparently and has only one third the amount of inspectors to monitor twice as many factories as are currently covered by the Accord.

“The Bangladesh Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, which carries out inspections for the RCC, reports a woefully low 29% completion rate for mandatory safety renovations at factories the government is ostensibly regulating,” it continues. “The average progress at Accord-covered factories is 90%. Until the Government of Bangladesh demonstrates the capacity and political will to regulate the industry, the Accord is essential to protect the safety of workers.”

Because the Accord is a binding agreement between unions and apparel brands, it will remain in effect through 2021, CCC says, with all brands remaining bound to their obligations under the agreement, including the obligation to cease business with any factory that refuses to operate safely.

However, without a local office, CCC says the Accord would have to use international engineering firms to carry out inspections, and the Accord’s ability to monitor and verify remediation progress would be “severely curtailed, with grave consequences to workers’ safety and the progress achieved over the past five years”.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging the Bangladesh Government to allow the work of the Transition Accord on Fire and Building Safety to continue beyond November this year.

In passing the resolution, the European Parliament also called on the Bangladesh Government to act urgently to address deteriorating human rights conditions in the country. In particular it points to the ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression and association, labour rights abuses and anti-union discrimination and extrajudicial killings. 

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