The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh


Year: 2014

Creators: Group A (Chris Crane, Alex Danvers, Robbie Foley, Will Kelleher, Mike Stanton and Adam Williams)

Type: undergraduate group work, University of Exeter, UK

Availability: The Accord: free online [link]. The discussion: in full below

Page reference: Group A (2013) Follow the Bangladesh Accord ( last accessed <insert date here>)



24 April 2013: An eight-storey factory building complex at Rana Plaza in the industrial outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapses killing at least 1,138 garment workers and injuring over 2,500 more. Exact numbers are still sketchy, with hundreds of bodies remaining unidentified or missing. The world’s worst industrial accident in 30 years came just five months after the Tazreen factory fire in Dhaka, where more than 120 workers lost their lives. The Rana Plaza building housed five clothing factories – Ether Tex, New Wave Bottoms, New Wave Style, Phantom Apparels and Phantom Tex – and a mall. The collapse was caused by the illegal addition of two floors on an already sub-standard building.

1-4 May 2013: A high-Level International Labor Organisation (ILO) mission visits Bangladesh to identify key areas for action. A joint statement is signed by tripartite partners (government, workers, employers) identifying key areas for action, such as the assessment of the structural integrity of ready-made garment factory buildings; strengthening labour inspection; worker and management training and awareness of occupational safety and health and workers’ rights; rehabilitation and skills training of disabled workers; and the possible establishment of a Better Work programme.

13 May 2013: The first of two major remedial plans was launched. The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety is backed by global unions and mostly-European companies, with founder members including Benetton, C&A, Carrefour, Debenhams, Esprit, H&M, Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Otto Group, Primark, Puma, PVH and Tesco. The full list of signatories now extends to more than 150 companies, and can be seen here. The Accord covers 1,639 supplier factories.

The legally-binding five-year Accord commits to independent safety inspections with public reports on all Bangladeshi suppliers used by the signatory companies, mandatory repairs and renovations, the obligation by brands to underwrite the costs of safety upgrades, and repercussions for suppliers that refuse to improve conditions including the termination of business. It also binds signatories to maintain sourcing volumes in Bangladesh for two years.

27 June 2013: The US decides to suspend the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits to Bangladesh – the system under which it can export certain goods to the US duty-free. While this has little impact on apparel – the vast majority of products do not enjoy GSP relief – it sends a powerful signal to the Bangladeshi government and business leaders. Renewal is due to be reconsidered again in May 2014.

8 July 2013: The EU, Bangladesh Government and ILO issue the Global Sustainability Compact to promote improved labour standards, the structural integrity of buildings and occupational safety and health, and responsible business conduct in the RMG and knitwear industry in Bangladesh. The Compact assigns an important coordination and monitoring role to the ILO.

10 July 2013: Certain elements of the Accord presented a major stumbling block to North American firms, including the way in which disputes are resolved, which many US companies feared would subject them to potentially unlimited legal liability and litigation. As a result, a group of 26 mostly North American brands and retailers, including Wal-Mart, Gap, JC Penney and VF Corp have lent their support to the essentially voluntary Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. The Alliance covers 770 supplier factories. A comparison of the Alliance and Accord can be seen here.

15 July 2013: Amendments are made to the Bangladesh Labour Act, including provisions on workplace rights, safety and health. Progress is also seen on the registration of new unions following the labour law reforms, with over 140 new unions registered to date – compared to just two in the preceding three years.

25 July 2013: The Accord and Alliance between them cover 2,409 of the 3,498 Bangladesh factories making garments for export, while it is also estimated that there are another 1,500 factories and facilities on top of this. To address the shortfall, the Government of Bangladesh and representatives from local employers’ and workers’ organisations sign an integrated National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity in the garment Sector of Bangladesh (NTPA), coordinated by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

22 October 2013: The ILO launches a US$24m, three-and-a-half year programme on improving working conditions in the ready-made garment sector. The programme is designed to support the National Tripartite Plan of Action. A new Better Work programme is also launched in Bangladesh.

7 November 2013: The ILO brings together technical experts (structural engineers, fire safety experts) from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) on behalf of the NTC, the Accord, and the Alliance. The experts agree on harmonised standards for structural and fire safety assessments.

22 November 2013: Led by engineers from BUET, assessments of the structural integrity and fire safety of RMG factory buildings officially commence.

1 December 2013: A new minimum wage for garment workers comes into effect, rising by 77% to $68 (BDT5,300) per month. The basic salary is also set to rise by 5% each year.

15 January 2014: The Government of Bangladesh upgrades the chief inspector of factories and establishments office to a department, sanctioning 679 new staff positions, including 392 new inspectors.

17 January: The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh finalises the fire, electrical, and building inspection standards against which all its member supplier factories will be assessed.

20 February 2014: Accord factory inspections get underway, with 38 teams of fire, electrical and structural engineers due to conduct 250 inspections a month until September.

12 March 2014: Alliance factory inspections get underway. By 22 April, inspections have been completed on more than half of them, and are due to be finished by July.

18 March 2014: The Rana Plaza Coordination Committee adopts the Rana Plaza Arrangement to provide compensation to all injured workers, dependents of the dead and missing, and non-injured workers present in the complex when it collapsed.

23 April 2014: The Rana Plaza Coordination Committee agrees to award BDT50,000 (US$650) each to victims of the building collapse as advance compensation payments. The fund has so far received about US$15m of the estimated $40m needed to compensate all victims.

(Source: Barrie 2014 link)


As garment factories have pushed into new markets in search of ever-cheaper labour, the apparel industry has become perhaps the ultimate symbol of two decades of globalization…the manufacturing of clothing now ties together Western consumers and distant Asian workers in a cycle driven by trends and budgets that change with the seasons. No product better represents how our economy has been altered than the global tee, the fashion basic that’s sold for miraculously cheap prices, sometimes just $5. As The Globe and Mail found during more than two months tracking such T-shirts – from the cotton fields of China to the gleaming offices of Hong Kong and Singapore , to factories in Cambodia and Bangladesh and back to Canadian stores – supply chains are increasingly fragmented. Production leapfrogs from city to city. Middlemen outsource to other middlemen. Governments make bold claims but few checks on safety. And the consumer knows little about the long and tortuous path journey of that T-shirt to the store – only that it has become far more affordable than it ever used to be. (Source: Mackinnon, M. and Strauss, M. 2013 link) 

 …A profound change is possible only with a strong coalition between trade unions, international brands and retailers, Bangladeshi authorities and employers, and with worker involvement in the workplace with guaranteed freedom of association. (Source: IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina, link

Since 2005, over 1,800 workers have been killed in preventable factory fires and building collapses in the Bangladesh garment industry. (Source: International labour rights forum, 2008-2012 link)

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is a five-year legally binding agreement between international labor organizations, non-governmental organizations, and retailers engaged in the textile industry to maintain minimum safety standards in the Bangladesh textile industry. The undersigned parties are committed to the goal of a safe and sustainable Bangladeshi Ready-Made Garment (“RMG”) industry in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses, or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures. The accord was signed in May 2013. (Source: Wikipedia, link)

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety requires that companies mandate and pay for renovation and repairs to ensure factories in Bangladesh are made safe. The five-year pact is a legally enforceable contract between companies and unions that will use binding arbitration to resolve disputes.(Source: Women’s Wear Daily, 2013)

The agreement will see independent safety inspections with public reports on all Bangladeshi suppliers used by the signatory companies, mandatory repairs and renovations, the obligation by brands to underwrite the costs of safety upgrades, and repercussions for suppliers that refuse to improve conditions including the termination of business.(Source: Katie Smith link)

What they have signed up to…agrees to independent safety inspections with public reports on all Bangladeshi suppliers used by the signatory companies, mandatory repairs and renovations, the obligation by brands and retailers to underwrite the costs of safety upgrades – including ensuring they pay suppliers enough to maintain safe workplaces – and repercussions for suppliers that refuse to improve conditions including the termination of business. There will also be health and safety training for workers and management personnel, health and safety committees, and the right of workers to file complaints and to refuse unsafe work. And an active role is seen for both workers and trade unions. Signatory brands will contribute a maximum $500,000 per year to pay for the steering committee, safety inspector and training coordinator. Payments will depend on each company’s annual garment production in Bangladesh. (Source: Marian, P. 2013 link)

The Accord commits the companies to a fire and building safety programme in Bangladesh…building on an earlier National Action Plan on Fire Safety. And it commits them to fund an independent safety inspectorate that will involve workers and their unions and covers re-mediation and fire safety training throughout the supply chain. A steering committee chaired by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and with equal representation from trade unions and companies, will oversee the new safety inspectorate. The Accord provides for union involvement at all levels including the factory floor, with factory-level health and safety committees and worker representation (where unions are present). And it provides for employment security and pay if factories have to be closed down to carry out the safety improvements identified by inspectors as being necessary. (Source: Labour Research August 2013)

Key highlights of the implementation plan include:

· Initial inspections to identify grave hazards and the need for urgent repairs. This will be completed within 9 months

· An Interim Procedure to take effect when existing inspection processes or worker reports identify factories which require immediate remediation measures.

· Hiring process commenced for the Chief Safety Inspector and Executive Director positions.

· Governance structure established through a Steering Committee with equal representation of signatory companies and unions and an Advisory Board with broad representation in Bangladesh.” (Source: IndustriALL-union, 2013 link)

Jyrki Raina, General Secretary IndustriALL:“Our mission is clear: to ensure the safety of all workers in the Bangladesh garment industry. The direct involvement of workers in the factories is key to the success of this programme.” (Source: Anon 2013a link)

…it’s a major step forward for Bangladesh. (Source: Thomas, K. 2013 link)  

IndustriALL General Secretary JyrkiRaina stated: This historic, legally binding Accord will effect tangible change on the ground and help make the Bangladeshi garment industry safe and sustainable. Voluntary initiatives have proved insufficient, as 1,800 Bangladeshi garment workers have died in factory fires and building collapses during the past seven years.

UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings commented: Now the real work starts. The terms of reference and the rules of the Accord are set in place, we can now identify the best people and put together the team in Bangladesh who will be charged with carrying out this vital work. These are exciting moments. The world is watching. (Source: Industriall Union 2013 link) 

Peter McAllister (ETI director) said; “The accord is an important milestone, and shows just how seriously the international community takes this issue. The real test comes at implementation stage, and how all parties collaborate in order to raise workplace standards.

In the spirit of the accord, Bangladesh’s garment workers must play an integral role, if we are to see long-lasting improvements in health and safety practices across the sector. These workers must have their right to a safe workplace protected, and upheld. (Source: Ethical Trade 2013 link)

The accord is obviously an essential first step in the right direction, and firms should be commended for pulling together with a solid effort to bring about change. But it is also unlikely to be the last step to achieving safe factories, since there will always be those who, for whatever reasons, slip the net. The challenge is to make sure the momentum continues and that the agreement continues to evolve. It is also worth remembering that while a lot of time has been spent recently talking about the disasters, there are also a lot of very reputable organisations operating in Bangladesh in an ethical way. It’s now time for the others to catch up. (Source: Marian, P. 2013 link

It took the worst garment factory accident in modern history to teach consumers the real price of an $8 T-shirt. (Source: Talaga, T. 2014 link)

The Accord today reached 175 signatories! Welcome to new members, committed to safety in RMG workplaces in Bangladesh (BangladeshAccord May 2014 @bangaccord link)

Inspection update Accord: More than 1900 fire, electrical and structural inspections performed at over 650 factories (BangladeshAccord June 2014 @bangaccord link)



Inspiration / Process / Technique / Methodology

Wages are as low as $38 a month. Sweatshops proliferate. Labor conditions are so dangerous that an estimated 1,800 garment workers have lost their lives in factory fires and building collapses since 2005. The latest collapse claimed 1,127 lives, the world’s worst industrial accident since 1984. Welcome to Bangladesh. Is this where you want your clothes made? (Source: G.J. MacDonald, 2013)

On the morning of 24 April 2013, Bangladesh’s worst industrial accident occurred 30 kilometres outside the capital city, Dhaka. More than 1,100 garment workers, many of them young women, were killed when the eight-storey Rana Plaza building housing five clothing factories collapsed. According to the global union confederation, IndustriALL, the scale of the disaster was enough to finally shake international clothing brands and retailers from complacency about the appalling conditions in the sector. (Source:Anon 2013a)

…the collapse of Rana Plaza factory building in April has had on workers: almost 1200 workers dead, 1,500 injured workers waiting for compensation and 500 children aged under 8 are now orphans. (Source: R. Crawford, 2013)

 In response to these catastrophes, activists and unions worldwide have come together to demand accountability from apparel companies, and created the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. (Source: Anon, 2013b)

The horrific catastrophes at Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza exposed the callous indifference of the US brands and retailers that sourced from these factories…none of the US retailers whose clothing was produced at Tazreen or Rana Plaza have paid any sort compensation to victims or participated in compensation negotiations. This includes Walmart, whose products accounted for 40% of the clothing being produced at Tazreen at the time of the fire and Children’s Place, whose failure to ensure safe working conditions at Rana Plaza has left hundreds of children without their mothers or fathers.(Source: International Labour Rights Forum, 2013)

Nearly five months after the collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza building the reverberations continue to impact the apparel industry. The incident – and it lessons about supply-chain vulnerabilities – has boosted efforts to improve worker and building safety. “[Bangladesh] is an inflection point for monitoring and auditing supply chains,” said Kindley Walsh Lawlor, vice president for corporate social responsibility at Gap, speaking at the Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco last week. But companies remain divided on how best to do this in a country that’s one of the industry’s top suppliers. (Source: K.A. Wong, 2013)



“where i supposed to by shirt now?” (Source: inyourface668 2013 link )

“It is essential to stop the ‘race to the bottom’ among clothing brands, hunting for the cheapest place to make clothing without regard to the cost in human life or the cost to American jobs,” [Tom] Harkin said. “Until workplaces in Bangladesh are safer, until their workers are making more than a pittance, until workers are able to effectively organize and speak out against fundamentally abusive work practices, then our government should not give trade preferences to any products from Bangladesh.” (Source: Harkin 2013 link)

‘Enough is enough’ – ‘The question people have to ask is how much is a life worth? Sadly, that seems like the answer has been much lower than the reality. I’m glad to see retailers recognising that lives should not be lost for us to get this seasons new jumper’ (Source: Rob Ratcliff 2013 link )

Ken Livingstone: ‘World wide capitalism kills more people everyday then Hitler did. And he was crazy.’ (Source: Laoch111 2013a link)

“Nothing will change in our current shitty system. Why does it take a tragedy to get an(albeit poxy) agreement?” (Source: Loach111 2013b link)

“thank u for opening my eyes to this information. i heard about the accident but didn’t follow through on the details. i will be cutting up my credit cards from these companies and to never shop there again.” (Source: zerosister 2013 link)

“Nothing to do with Primark or any other cheap clothes outlet … simply poor building construction and lack of maintenance and inspection by the authorities and owners …” (Source: ADZ01982 2013 link)

“This is embarrassing for every people on the western hemisphere. Over 1000 workers were killed by greedy capitalism, AND ORDINARY PEOPLE, who buy this cheap clothes. Think twice, when you are buying new clothes. Go for Fair Trade labelled clothes, and AVOID these brutal, capitalistic brands, who doesn’t care of human lifes. Sorry for bad English.” (Source: DennisLaursen89 2013 link)

“So if I purchase articles made in Bangladesh it’s my fault?” (Source: Duane Phinney 2013 link)

“Third world people – third world nation – third world construction.” (Source: CelticSouthland 2013 link)

“Are we going to sweep this under the rug, as time goes by, and continue business as usual, like we do everything else in this country when it involves those of other nations. I can’t and I won’t, but right now I am just too pissed to even begin to express how I feel about this whole situation involving these poor innocent victims, and what the business world, and its greed for profits, has allowed to happen; whose hands are now stained with blood of over 1,000 victims, but I will comment tomrro.” (Source: Ben TEN TEN 2013 link)

“…the West needs to stop exploiting the cheaper costs of the places that don’t consider safety a worthwhile cost.” (Source: digitalnonsense2010 2013 link)

“Never in the history of the garment sector have we seen such an opportunity for improvement of labour conditions. With the signing of this agreement, the Netherlands with the ILO and our fellow donors will empower millions of workers in Bangladesh to live healthy and decent lives,” said the country’s Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen.” (Source: Scoop 2013 link)

“Alex Wilks, campaign director at the Avaaz pressure group, said: “H&M’s announcement is great news for millions of workers in Bangladesh. Consumers should reward H&M’s leadership.” (Source: Sky News 2013 link)

“1800, that’s incredible. It is good to know that these retailers are doing something about these terrible figures and not just taking advantage of cheap operating costs.” (Source: holmesd 2013 link)

“There’s a focus on Bangladesh while there could be and should be a focus on other low-cost countries,” said Andrew Hersh, a director at Aon Global Risk Consulting in New York. “The reason there’s a focus on Bangladesh is retailers are concerned about their reputations.” (Source: Business Insurance 25 September 2013)

“These high street a**holes should be held accountable. How can they possibly say they didn’t know clothes or products of theirs were being made here. It is utter bulls**t. Where were they sending the measly payments for the products if they didn’t know where they were being made.” (Source: Rogue Trooper 2013 link)

“I think its a sad state of affairs when the public has to force businesses to do the right thing. I sometimes find it overwhelming to try to understand the greed and in-humanities of those who worship money over all else.” (Source: kat 2013 link)

“Shame, shame on all of them: it took this disaster to bring this on. They made $billions and now they take token action: shame on them all!” (Source: Dan Kucheran 2013 link)

“Gap and Walmart have the power to prevent another Rana Plaza, but instead, they’replaying games with workers’ lives.” (Source: stopsweatshops 2013 link)

Why is it always the CHEAP Retailers that get the bad press? I know and SKY knows that there are BIGGER FISH and more affluent FISH to BLAME as well. (Source: Ian McNichol 2013 link)

“UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “We made it! This accord is a turning point. We are putting in place rules that mark the end of the race to the bottom in the global supply chain.”… “Commenting on the no-shows, Jennings said, “Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is out of step. By not signing up, the Walmart brand sinks to a new low. Equally Gap’s refusal to join is a mistake that shoppers will not forget. We will make progress without them.” (Source: Industriall-union 2013 link)

An official from the European group voiced concern that the American retailers would piggyback at no cost on the efforts of the Europeans — which includes H&M, Carrefour and more than 100 other retailers — in financing safety upgrades at hundreds of factories. The members of the European-led group, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, have made binding commitments to help pay for fire safety measures and building upgrades when shortcomings in safety are found in the more than 1,600 garment factories its members use in Bangladesh. While the American-dominated group, which has 26 members, including Walmart Stores, Target and Gap, has stopped short of making such a binding commitment, it has pledged to provide loans for the improvements. Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights group based in Washington that is a member of the Europe-led accord, said members had a ”significant concern about a free-rider situation.” (Source: Greenhouse, 2013 link)

“I vote with my feet every day I purchase something by going to any other store but the ones owned by the Walton family.” (Source: Tom Cleary 2013 link)

“I never buy anything from Walmart and I won’t until they treat their workers in the USA and abroad fairly. Walmart is a stench in the nostrils of the business community.” (Source: RK4206 2013 link)

Mr. Nova criticized Walmart’s inspection reports as inadequate. ”I expected to see much more substantive detail,” he said. ”They really don’t point out specific or actual hazards.” He praised Walmart for disclosing the names of its factories, which many retailers refuse to do. ”But in terms of public disclosure, it’s pretty useless,” he added. ”There’s no way for workers at a factory to tell what specific hazards they face, whether it’s a lack of smokeproof enclosed staircases or something else.” (Source: Greenhouse 2013 link)

“Thank you for your strength and perseverance. May the 1,236 people that died in Bangladesh always be remembered. And may the greedy Waltons and banks of America wake up and smell their coffee.” (Source: Jean Varda 2013 link)

“She goes right after the belly of the beast – the greedy Walmart heirs. These selfish rich people should be put on the spot and called out for their heartless behavior.” (Source: evonline 2013 link)

“As far as I’m concerned, the obligation to assist is purely moral and therefore there is no need for the agreement to have a legal basis.” (Source: Mikeylano 2013 link)

“As co-workers sang or chanted on either side of the lot, Seattle striker Preston Johnson presented a security officer with a three-foot tall list of the retailers who’ve signed onto the labor-backed Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh; it included a dotted line at the bottom for Walmart CEO Mike Duke, who hasn’t. ‘1,239 folks have died because of factories that were unsafe’ said Johnson, ‘and we found out that Walmart is one of the companies that had workers making clothes there… Akter, the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity believes Walmart is resisting the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh because it would bind the company to pay for the costs of factory improvements, and to cooperate with unions and workers’ groups to monitor conditions. ‘They don’t want to share their profits with anyone,’ charged Akter, and ‘they don’t want workers’ voice in the workplace.” (Source: Eidelson 2013 link

Nisha Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department, added that “there is still much to be done.” “Gaps remain between national law and international standards, no action has been taken to bring Export Processing Zones (EPZs) into conformity with international standards, and concerns remain over harassment of labour activists and the investigation of the murder of [union activist] Aminul Islam.” (Source: Woodward 2014 link)



The accord is an important milestone, and shows just how seriously the international community takes this issue. The real test comes at implementation stage, and how all parties collaborate in order to raise workplace standards. (Source: Anon 2013a link

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that none of the biggest American retailers signed a global accord to improve the safety of garment factories in Bangladesh. Wal-Mart Stores didn’t sign. Gap didn’t. J.C. Penney didn’t. These companies are concerned about preventing the fires and collapses that have killed more than 1,100 Bangladeshi workers in the past six months. But signing a legally binding agreement with built-in systems to resolve disputes that was created with labor unions? That’s too European. Wal-Mart (WMT) said yesterday (PDF): “While we agree with much of the proposal, the Industrial plan also introduces requirements, including governance and dispute resolution mechanisms, on supply chain matters that are appropriately left to retailers, suppliers, and government.” Instead, Wal-Mart will conduct, within the next six months, its own safety inspections of the 279 factories its contractors are authorized to use; will require “remediation as necessary;” and will make the results public. Atthe Gap (GPS), Debbie Mesloh, accompany spokeswoman, said on May 13 that the company is “ready to sign on” pending a change to the provision regarding binding arbitration. And J.C. Penney (JCP) is working on an alternative safety agreement with industry groups, spokeswoman Daphne Avila, told Bloomberg News on Tuesday. She declined to provide details. (Source: Berfield, S. 2013 link)

Clearly what’s happening here is the American companies are all joining together under AAFA and the National Retail Federation and they’re all together saying, “We don’t want to do anything that’s legally binding…” (Source: S, Shannon & L, Rupp. link)

Numerous companies are holding out on signing the agreement. Gap and Walmart are just two of the many large corporations, which have failed to ensure the safety of workers in its supply chain, stating that the agreement poses a large financial risk to those companies within the US legal system. US legal scholars have since disproved these claims, yet companies continue to skirt the issue. (Source: Hdarnton 2013 link)

Unveiling a new five-year plan to improve worker safety at the factories in Bangladesh that produce their clothing, North American brands and retailers were keen to stress the similarities between their own initiative and a separate scheme backed by 70 mainly European companies. Not only are there “many common elements” between the [North American] Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety with its Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative and the [European] Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, they said yesterday (10 July) – but both serve as the basis for a “united approach to forging change. Certain elements of the Accord presented a major stumbling block to North American firms, including the way in which disputes are resolved. Gap Inc. has already expressed its concerns at the “potential risk of lawsuits in the US if anything goes wrong,” while Wal-Mart argued the Accord “introduces requirements, including governance and dispute resolution mechanisms, on supply chain matters that are appropriately left to retailers, suppliers and government, and are unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals. The main difference, the reason we couldn’t sign the Accord, is that Europe has a different legal environment than the US and Canada,” he noted, “and the Accord has some provisions that, in the way the way the US and Canadian legal systems work, would subject us to potentially unlimited legal liability and litigation. The North American initiative requires no commitment from the brands to stay in Bangladesh – unlike the Accord, whose signatories must maintain sourcing volumes in Bangladesh for two years. The result is that there are now two different, but overlapping, initiatives to help improve factory safety conditions for garment workers in Bangladesh.” (Source: Anon, 2013b)

The House of Representatives approved a defense authorization bill today containing a measure that will require that military-branded garments made in Bangladesh and sold at base retail stores owned by the Department of Defense, known as exchanges, comply with an enforceable fire and building safety accord that will improve conditions in Bangladesh ready-made garment factories…Public data indicates that the Army-Air Force Exchange imported 124,000 pounds of garments last year from several garment factories in Bangladesh. (Source: Anon 2013c)

Inspections are due to begin next month on at least 2,000 garment factories in Bangladesh that are not already part of two separate initiatives by retailers and brands in Europe and North America to audit all their supplier factories in the country. The government-led National Tripartite Action Plan on Building and Fire Safety, which is working with employer and worker groups and the International Labour Organization (ILO), says teams led by the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) will undertake the assessments. There are also plans to set out a national standard for fire safety and structural assessments as a benchmark for all audits to meet. (Source: Anon 2013d)

Gap is part of an alliance of more than 15 companies – including Walmart, Kohl’s, Target and Macy’s – which has agreed to require factory inspections(and publicly release the results) in Bangladesh, develop common safety standards, provide loans to factory owners to improve safety, establish a worker hotline before the end of the year and establish “worker participation committees” selected by their peers…but Gap’s approach has been controversial. The company and its partners have been criticized by labor rights groups for not including for a requirement to allow supplier workers – mostly women earning low wages – to organize unions. Meanwhile, more than 70 other companies have signed a different accord, which does endorse the right of workers to organize as part of an overall strategy to improve factory safety in Bangladesh. H&M, Zara, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein were among the companies to sign the accord, which requires independent factory inspections and public release of the results. Unlike Gap’s initiative, this accord is legally binding. (Source: K, A, Wong. 2013 link)

Nearly 3.5 million garment workers in Bangladesh, recently beset by industrial accidents and a staggering loss of life, will get essential support to improve working conditions, strengthen labour inspection and upgrade building and fire safety at their workplaces, thanks to a new programme in partnership with the United Nations. This programme will improve conditions of work, especially safety, and help generate sustainable economic growth and investment. The new multi-year programme, carried out in partnership with the Governments of the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Canada, will boost the efforts already underway by Bangladesh and its partners in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector. Among other things, the programme will focus on supporting the Bangladeshi National Action Plan for Fire and Building Safety, developed in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse this April. The Plan calls for an assessment of all active export-oriented, RMG factories in Bangladesh to be completed by 31 December 2013. The Plan is supported by other parallel initiatives focused on the RMG sector in Bangladesh, namely the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh signed by over 80 leading clothing brands and retailers and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a binding five-year initiative undertaken by North American apparel companies and retailers to improve safety in more than 500 factories. (Source: Anon 2013e)

The international clothing retailers that vowed to improve working conditions after a deadly building collapse at one of the Bangladeshi garment factories that supply their clothes have released a list of nearly 1,600 factories that will be covered by the Accord on Fire and Building Safety they signed. Friday’s release of the participating sites in the safety accord is the first step to improving job conditions and safety in the factories that make garments for the 90 signatories to the accord, which include H&M, Zara, Joe Fresh, Benetton and  PVN. There are nearly 5,000 garment factories in Bangladesh, so not every workplace is covered by the accord. (Source: Anon 2013f link)

The next time there is a fire, collapse or an industrial accident, there will be a list of 1,566 factories available that describes how many companies were operating in the building and how many employees were present.…consumers can do their part by checking which companies have signed the accord, shoppers can soon be confident that clothes they buy from accord brands will no longer be coming from unsafe sweatshops.(Source: Anon 2013g)

European brands signing onto a binding Accord while a group of North American brands led by Wal-Mart have formed their own alliance—a move that attracted much criticism since it seemingly involves less accountability on the brands’ part. (Source: D. Buss 2013 link)

To mark the six months that have passed since the disaster, the campaign group United Students Against Sweat Shops (USAS) have launched a new campaign and petition, aimed at keeping the conditions of garment workers in Bangladesh in the public eye. The campaign centers on U.S. universities. The text associated with the petition reads: “Universities should demand apparel companies like VF Corporation and Adidas put an end to the exploitation of Bangladeshi garment workers in deathtrap factories by requiring them to join the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, a groundbreaking contract between unions and corporations that compels respect for workers’ fundamental right to a safe workplace.” (Source: Anon 2013h)

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. became the first major retailer to release a large-scale audit of factories from which it sources in Bangladesh, outlining the failure and improvement rates in fire and building safety at 75 facilities. Richard Locke, a political science professor at Brown University and director of its Watson Institute for International Studies. [said] “I think it is good that Wal-Mart stopped doing business with factories that failed both audits.” Locke said that audits alone are not enough, however, to exact true reform in Bangladesh. He said companies like Wal-Mart must invest to help owners develop more sophisticated management and health and safety systems to sustain a level of compliance. He also noted that retailers and brands should change the purchasing practices that may have contributed to the poor working conditions the companies are now trying to alleviate. (Source: Ellis 2013 link)

The tripartite efforts to improve working conditions in apparel factories are facing a blow as the prevailing political turmoil has virtually blocked timely implementation of factory inspection programmes, officials and sector insiders said. “The blockades are seriously affecting our inspection as members of our teams are unwilling to go out during any political activities like hartals and blockades,” [said] BUET Professor Maksud Helali, who is responsible to assess the fire and electrical safety related issues. (Source: Munni 2013 link)

Two groups of retailers – one dominated by American companies, the other by European brands – have agreed on joint inspection standards for thousands of garment factories in Bangladesh as part of their effort to improve workplace safety there. Brad Loewen, the chief safety inspector for the accord, whose members include H&M, Marks & Spencer and Carrefour, [said] the new standards required sprinkler systems in all garment buildings at least 28 meters tall – essentially seven or eight stories. He said the standards required fire doors between exit stairways and the production and storage areas. In addition, the requirements for fire alarms will be far more uniform and stringent. (Source: Greenhouse 2013 link)

Bangladesh’s legislature amended the Labour Law to provide improved protection for the fundamental rights to freedom of association and the rights to collective bargaining. There were 87 amendments made in the new law. The elimination of previous obligation to send to employers the names of union leaders at the time of registration of a trade union, allowing workers to call on outside experts for advice during collective bargaining and allowing to elect 10 per cent of their enterprise officers from outside the workplace in the public sector is expected to improve labour rights situation. The increase in the number of trade unions allowed in factory from two to five has also been welcomed. There are several other measures included to improve worker safety and welfare. Including provisions for four-nation of a central fund for employees of 100 per cent export-oriented, foreign-owned companies, mandatory deposition of 5.0 per cent of net profit in provident and welfare funds, group insurance provisions for workers in case of accidents is expected to increase worker welfare. Providing labour inspectorate new responsibilities to inspect safety and health conditions of workplaces and conduct on-the-spot inspections, bar-ring change in factory layout and locking exits without permission of inspectors will help improve worker safety. However, the ILO and other international labour rights organizations have termed this change insufficient based on the unofficial translation of the amendments. The main areas of concern includes not reducing the 30 per cent minimum membership requirement to form unions and not extending freedom of association and collective bargaining rights to workers in EPZs.In addition, there is a concern that not allowing hiring of union leaders from outside the worker groups of the respective factory, requiring more than two-thirds of the union members to authorize strikes 83 will make the freedom of association quite restrictive. (Source: The Financial Express 2013 link)

As of 19 April 2014, a total of Tk. 221,100,000 (USD 2,793,190) has been distributed over nine phases among 909 victims’ families. However, according to the Center for Policy Dialogue, though each family had received between Tk 100,000 and 500,000 (between USD 1,263 and 6,316), the compensation is so far “very insufficient” (Source: States News Service 2014 link)

Slow progress in carrying out plans to compensate victims of the collapsed Rana Plaza building and conduct follow-up factory inspections threatens to undermine the achievements of the Bangladesh ready-made garment sector over the past four decades. Just 43 out of a promised 200 labour inspectors have been appointed. This raises questions about the long-term enforcement of fire and structural safety standards in the industry, the researchers say. (Source: Barrie, 2014 link)

Accord brand signatory membership increased dramatically from around 40 brands and retailers in May 2013 to 166 by the end of April 2014, covering more than 1600 factories employing approximately two million workers. And the Accord is still welcoming new signatories on a weekly basis. Whereas the first 6 months was dedicated to developing an implementation plan, recruitment of the Accord team and setting up offices in Dhaka and Amsterdam, in November 2013 ten pilot factories were the first to be inspected. Their inspection reports and Corrective Action Plans are now online.In February this year, the inspection program started in full swing, aiming to have 1500 factories inspected for fire, electrical and structural safety by October 2014. More than 300 factories have been inspected so far. The Accord has now approximately 110 externally contracted engineers and technical experts working in the field, inspecting approximately 45 factories per week. (Source: Oldenziel 2014 link)

More than 150 mostly European companies have signed the legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh , while 26 companies, most of them American, including Wal-Mart, Sears and Gap, have joined a separate alliance that commits them to invest in safety upgrades (and limits their liability when things go wrong). The factories they source from are gradually being upgraded, and monitoring is getting better. Meanwhile, foreign government pressure, including the suspension of U.S. trade privileges for Bangladesh, helped lead to new labor laws that, at face value, protect workers by making it easier for them to organize. Emboldened workers are now speaking out against bad conditions, walking out if necessary. And their collective efforts have secured a minimum-wage increase that will provide some financial security. But we’d be foolish to believe that the industry has thoroughly cleaned up its act or that it will continue to try to as Western concern flags. Reports from independent factory inspections conducted late last year painted a worrisome picture. Dangerously heavy storage loads sent cracks down walls and stressed sagging support beams. In some cases, basic fire equipment was missing, and exit routes didn’t lead outside. One of the best factories in the country – a client of Hugo Boss, Marks & Spencer and PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger – received multiple citations. And those are the front-line factories. The open secret in Bangladesh is that there’s a vast underworld of off-the-books operations that backstop the export industry. Sandwiched inside apartment buildings, in basements and on rooftops, underpaid and overworked employees finish orders from larger companies under fierce pressure to stay apace with fast fashion. Hidden from view, bosses are free to abuse workers and cut corners on safety. To date, none of Rana Plaza’s victims have received the full amount of promised compensation, while victims of other deadly accidents go largely ignored. (Source: Geoghegan, J 2014 link)




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