The new hearing is expected to take place on 19 May

The new hearing is expected to take place on 19 May

The Supreme Court of Bangladesh has again delayed its decision on the future operation of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in the country.

The move marks the eighth time the court has adjourned a hearing on a petition filed by the Accord challenging a High Court directive asking it to end all activities in Bangladesh on 30 November. The new date for the hearing is now 19 May.

The Bangladesh Accord announced the latest delay in a tweet this morning (15 April).

The delay has been welcomed by the IndustriAll global union, with assistant general secretary Jenny Holdcroft noting it is "good" that the Court has decided to allow more time for negotiations between the Accord, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the government.

"The Accord cannot cease its operations without a resolution that protects garment workers in Bangladesh now and into the future," she said. 

Mathias Bolton, head of commerce sector at UNI Global Union, added: "The Bangladesh Accord has saved lives and has helped make the country's garment industry more sustainable. The Accord must be allowed to continue operations in the country until the government is ready to effectively take over the training, inspection, and remediation functions of the Accord. Currently, the government clearly does not have that capacity."

Since it was set up in 2013, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh – and its replacement, the Transition Accord – have inspected more than 1,600 ready-made garment (RMG) factories in Bangladesh on behalf of around 200 global brands and retailers. The original five-year pact expired in May 2018 but was extended to complete remaining safety fixes while the Bangladesh government builds up its Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) as the national regulatory body to oversee workplace safety and remediation.

Last week, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has said it expects Bangladesh to graduate from the Least Developed Countries list in 2024 – the status under which it enjoys duty-free access to the European Union, Canada, and Japan – with the body urging the government to make the necessary reforms so it can to continue to capitalise on global trade opportunities.

The news comes a week after the government of Bangladesh announced it was establishing a EUR50m (US$56m) loan fund to provide the country's ready-made garment sector with medium-to-long-term finance for safety and environmental upgrades to factories. 

While a day earlier, an analysis of the government's factory remediation data found a "shocking level of unreadiness" to take over the Accord's work. The investigation by a consortium of labour rights organisations is based on two government-run databases intended to provide information on the remediation of garment factories. It revealed none of the 745 factories under the government's inspection programme has eliminated high-risk safety hazards – all of which were identified between three and five years ago.