Agreement: the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh

i) What is the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh?

The agreement itself 

“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 signatories to this Agreement agree to establish a fire and building safety program in Bangladesh for a period of five years.

The programme will build on the National Action Plan on Fire Safety (NAP), which expressly welcomes the development and implementation by any stakeholder of any other activities that would constitute a meaningful contribution to improving fire safety in Bangladesh. The signatories commit to align this programme and its activities with the NAP and to ensure a close collaboration, including for example by establishing common programme, liaison and advisory structures.”

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Source
Anon (2013) Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. International Labour Rights Forum May (http://www.laborrights.org/creating-a-sweatfree-world/resources/bangladesh-fire-and-building-safety-agreement last accessed 6 September 2013)

Photo used under Creative Commons license from here.

ii) Frequently asked questions

1 – What is the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh?

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (2013) is a comprehensive and independent agreement designed to make all garment factories in Bangladesh safe workplaces.

The agreement was designed by Bangladeshi and international unions together with other labour groups, making it unique in being supported by all key labour rights stakeholders, and signed by over 50 international brands and retailers, who agree upon a 5 year commitment to invest in safer factories.

The Accord is transparent as well as practical, the programme includes independent inspections by trained fire safety experts, public reporting, mandatory repairs and renovations financed by brands, a central role for workers and unions in both oversight and implementation, supplier contracts with sufficient financing and adequate pricing, and a binding contract to make these commitments enforceable.”

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Source
Clean Clothes Campaign (nd) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Bangladesh Safety Accord.  cleanclothes.org  (http://www.cleanclothes.org/issues/faq-safety-accord last accessed 6 October 2013)

iii) help us to visualise it!

This infographic has been produced by the International Labour Rights Forum. Click the image for the source.

Source
International Labor Rights Forum (2013) Visual explanation of the Bangladesh Safety Accord. laborrights.org (http://www.laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications-and-resources/Visual_explanation_of_the_Bangladesh_Safety_Accord.png last accessed 26 October 2013)

iv) who has signed the Accord?

Source
IndustriALL (2013) Bangladesh signatory list. industriall-union.org 2 September  (http://www.industriall-union.org/bangladesh-signatory-list last accessed 26 October 2013)

v) if you don’t want to sign the Accord, become a member of the Alliance..

“Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Gap Inc. and other major U.S. retailers plan to meet Tuesday in Chicago to start implementing a Bangladesh factory-safety plan announced last month amid criticism it lacks teeth to enforce company promises. The group, made up of 20 companies known as the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, will also announce its board of directors, reveal new signatories like Costco Wholesale Corp. and finalize common fire- and building-safety standards it pledged to put in place by Sept. 10. The group said it has already begun to disburse $45 million in funds by members but plans to hire an executive director and management firm to oversee funds and programs. The group is the U.S. industry’s response to pressure to improve working conditions in facilities in Bangladesh and prevent disasters like the deadly garment factory collapse in April.

… The agreement continues to attract scrutiny from labor activists and worker groups who say the safety plan falls short of a separate, legally binding agreement that commits Hennes & Mauritz AB, Tommy Hilfiger parent PVH Corp. and 70 other, mostly European companies to directly pay for the costs of repairing and renovating some 5,000 Bangladesh garment factories. Critics also complain of the absence of labor organizations from the North American alliance’s board of directors and say that nothing will change as long as the retailers continue to control the inspection process by choosing and paying the auditors, as well as electing a board that is supposed to conduct oversight and ensure the companies follow through with their safety plan.

‘They are essentially asking the companies and factory owners to regulate themselves,’ said Scott Nova, executive director at the Worker Rights Consortium, who helped craft the European-led accord. ‘They want people to see this as an alternative plan, but it’s no different than what companies have been doing without success for decades.’

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Source
Shelley Banjo & Suzanne Kapner (2013) U.S. Retailers to Implement Bangladesh Factory Plan. Wall Street Journal 20 August (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323423804579023640207379578.html last accessed 6 October 2013)

vi) who is a member of the Alliance?

… The current group of 26 includes the following companies: Ariela and Associates International LLC; Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited; Carter’s Inc.; The Children’s Place Retail Stores Inc.; Costco Wholesale Corporation; Fruit of the Loom, Inc.; Gap Inc.; Giant Tiger; Hudson’s Bay Company; IFG Corp.; Intradeco Apparel; J.C. Penney Company Inc.; The Jones Group Inc.; Jordache Enterprises, Inc.; The Just Group; Kohl’s Department Stores; L. L. Bean Inc.; M. Hidary & Company Inc.; Macy’s; Nordstrom Inc.; Public Clothing Company; Sears Holdings Corporation; Target Corporation; VF Corporation; and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; YM Inc. …

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Source

Anon (nd) Members. Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (http://www.bangladeshworkersafety.org/about/members last accessed 3 June 2014)

vii) what % of Bangladesh-based factors are covered by the Accord?

4 October 2013.

“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”

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Source
Anon (2013) Bangladesh safety accord covers 1/3 of garment factories. CBC News 4 October (http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bangladesh-safety-accord-covers-1-3-of-garment-factories-1.1912766 last accessed 9 October 2013)

viii) what’s this talk about compensation for the victims, too?

16 September 2013

Victims of the world’s worst garment factory disaster at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh are still no closer to compensation after a meeting called to mediate demands was deemed a failure by organizers. Global labor union IndustriALL slammed retailers after only a third of the brands that used the Dhaka manufacturing hub, which collapsed on April 24, turned up in Geneva on Thursday.

Consumers will be shocked that almost a half-year has passed since the Rana Plaza disaster with only one brand so far providing any compensation to the disaster’s victim,” IndustriALL assistant general secretary Monika Kemperle stated. “I respect those brands that came to these meetings. But I cannot understand brands that are not around the table.”

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24 October 2013

Low-budget clothing chain Primark has announced plans to compensate the workers and relatives of those who died in the Rana Plaza factory fire and collapse disaster in Bangladesh. … The factory was supplying high street brands around the world and Primark had a supplier on the eighth floor of the building. It was one of 28 brands being supplied from the factory.The Associated British Foods owned company has now offered to pay long-term compensation to the victims of the disaster or their families. At least 550 workers will continue to have their wages paid for the next three months while compensation is finalised.

Other companies are said to be considering whether to follow the proposal. A spokeswoman for the company said future long-term compensation payments will be given after the individual’s needs have been assessed.The minimum wage in Bangladesh is £24 a month and Primark said extending wage payments in the mean time would “alleviate immediate hardship”. Primark also said they had sent food aid to 1,300 families within a week of the building collapse. The clothing brand explained they were pushing ahead with their new compensation scheme because reaching an agreement on how to recompense victims was taking time.  As part of the longer term deal workers will get medical and vulnerability assessments by experts at Dhaka University, independent doctors, unions and non-governmental organisations.

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Sources
Per Lijas (2013) In Bangladesh, Rana Plaza Victims Still Await Compensation. Time 16 September (http://world.time.com/2013/09/16/in-bangladesh-rana-plaza-victims-still-await-compensation/#ixzz2j3x685tw last accessed 26 October 2013)
Heather Saul (2013) Primark offers compensation to Bangladesh Rana Plaza collapse victims. The Independent 24 October (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/primark-offers-compensation-to-bangladesh-rana-plaza-collapse-victims-8901572.html last accessed 26 October 2013)
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