The witness signatories to the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety say remaining safety hazards in Bangladeshi factories show that apparel brands must not abandon a binding safety programme.
In a new report, ‘Unfinished Business: Outstanding safety hazards at garment factories show that the Accord must be extended and expanded’, the signatories demonstrate that the Accord’s work must continue, and call for brands and retailers to sign a new, legally binding agreement that will allow the Accord’s work to be extended and its model to be expanded to other countries.
The report is based on a review of the Accord’s publicly available data on safety progress. It has been published by witness signatories to the Accord, Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum/Global Labor Justice, Maquila Solidarity Network, and Worker Rights Consortium.
The Accord is set to expire on 31 May of this year.
While report data shows a lot of progress has been made to make factories safer, with a majority of safety hazards being corrected, the document also points out that weakening the legal accountability of the Accord agreement would “risk the lives of innumerable workers as many important safety fixes have yet to be completed or verified.” Many of the safety hazards still present in factories are the most costly ones to remediate, it notes.
Brands and retailers must ensure the factories they are sourcing from have the financial means to complete these renovations, the report states.
Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum/Global Labor Justice, Maquila Solidarity Network, and Worker Rights Consortium claim that if the Accord agreement is not extended and expanded:
- The circumstances of factories with unresolved safety problems will get worse, in absence of the same legally binding requirements and incentives;
- Voluntary initiatives will replace the Accord’s safety programme, leaving companies accountable to no one but themselves, which has been a recipe for failure in the past;
- Much-needed improvements to safety in other garment producing countries will be delayed or not carried out at all.
“Members of the Bangladesh Accord have less than five weeks to ensure that the progress made by the Accord is protected and continued by a legally binding agreement with individual accountability,” the report states. “The Accord is widely recognised as a proven model that meets the requirements of human rights due diligence. Brands can continue the progress achieved over the past five years and maintain their reputation as industry leader. Or they can turn away from the path of progress by allowing the Accord to expire, with grim consequences for workers.”
The BGMEA recently argued that the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), which was set up to continue the achievements of the Accord on workplace safety, and the Bangladesh Government, is more than capable of ensuring the highest standards of monitoring and inspections.