Understanding The Alliance and The Accord on Bangladesh worker safety

Labour rights article written on the 05 Dec 2013

Since April 2013 Oxfam has been asking Australian companies sourcing from Bangladesh to join the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord.

The Accord is a legally binding initiative that mandates independent safety inspections (involving trade unions and local groups), the right for workers to be able refuse dangerous work and obliges companies to help pay for necessary renovations and repairs.

We understand that The Just Group has joined the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. We welcome that The Just Group is taking worker safety in Bangladesh seriously, but we have some concerns about the Alliance and for this reason we are going to continue to call on The Just Group to also join the Accord.

Oxfam is concerned that the Alliance:

  • We are concerned that the Alliance process is not legally binding which means that companies are not legally bound to uphold all the parts of the agreement. We understand that it is only members fees that are binding.
  • We are concerned that full safety inspection reports are not made publicly available. This means we do not know exactly which problems are found in which factories and how these problems are being resolved.
  • Labour rights groups in Bangladesh have reported that workers inside factories have not been included in the Alliance inspection program. This is critical because workers often know about the problems in the factories and they need to feel safe at work.
  • We are concerned that the Alliance does not legally mandate financial support for factories to make necessary repairs and renovations. We believe this financial support is needed for industry wide improvement in the garment industry in Bangladesh. We understand the only assistance for renovations referenced in the Alliance documents is a voluntary loan program, “administered solely by the Member [i.e., the brand or retailer] who makes such funds available, on terms and conditions to be established solely by that Member.”
  • We understand that under the Alliance, brands and retailers choose the auditors, pay the auditors, and control the inspections.
    We do not consider this to be a cross-industry, independent approach to factory audits which is needed to provide whole-of-industry oversight on these important factory inspections.

Because of the above concerns we are continuing to call on The Just Group to join the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord as a more sustainable and further reaching agreement. To find out more about the Accord visit our blog The Bangladesh Accord and why it’s important.

Updated: April 2014