The Bangladesh Accord and why it is important

Labour rights article written on the 05 Dec 2013

The Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord brings together the United Nation’s International Labour Organization, Bangladeshi unions, international unions, the Bangladesh Government and garment companies to oversee safety inspections into more than 1600 garment factories in Bangladesh. We are concerned that company’s own auditing programs and safety checks are not enough to ensure long term worker safety in Bangladesh.

Since 2005 more than 1800 men and women have been killed at work making clothing in Bangladesh in a series of factory fires and collapses. The most tragic of the series of fires and collapses was been the Rana Plaza collapse in April this year. These Accord inspections are so important because they will ensure factories are carefully checked for fire and structural safety.

At least two garment factories in the Rana Plaza building had recently passed company labour and safety standard audits. Despite these checks, on the 24th of April the Rana Plaza building collapsed killing more than 1,100 men and women and injuring 2,500.

This is why future factory safety checks and inspections must be rigorous and overseen by all the important groups – including Bangladesh worker representatives, not just companies going it alone.

More than 100 companies from 19 countries have so far joined the Accord. Pilot inspections have already begun.

The Accord goes well beyond companies’ own auditing programs by requiring companies to take a number of concrete measures including:

  1. Committing to a 5 year plan of safety inspections, trainings and repairs. Companies have to stay with factories and support workers financially through repairs rather than “cutting and running”
  2. Help pay for factory renovations or repairs as needed
  3. If factories have to close for repairs, ensure workers will be paid while repairs are made
  4. Protect the right for workers to stop work if they are worried about their safety
    (At Rana Plaza workers were forced back to work despite being concerned about cracks appearing in the walls the day before the collapse)
  5. If factories are beyond repair or consistently non-compliant then companies will help worker find employment in other suppliers. (When companies ‘cut and run’ at the first problem it leaves factories without orders and worker lose their jobs.)
  6. Independent inspections and verification of fire and building safety inside factories (currently many companies pay other companies to conduct safety inspections, but we do not consider this to be independent)
  7. Setting up health and safety committees and safety training programs that involve trade union representatives
  8. Public reporting of the results of these inspections. This is important to see what kinds of problems are being found in factories and to be sure they are being fixed.
  9. Companies are legally bound by these commitments.
  10.  All of the above can be checked by groups like Oxfam because all of these steps will be closely followed and reported on by the Accord team.
    (When companies conduct their own programs and inspections there is no-one overseeing this and no way to verify it is happening. Particularly when companies refuse to disclose the street addresses of their supplier factories.)

You can view a full list of the Accord signatories and share the list of Australian companies who have joined the Accord with your friends on Facebook.

For information on what makes The Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord the most comprehensive program for workers’ safety in Bangladesh you can read our comparison between the Alliance and The Accord.