On 12 February, more than 40 trade union representatives from the European garment and retail companies that have signed the Accord gathered in Brussels to discuss how they can provide concrete support and further protection for their colleagues in Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh Accord on Fire & Building Safety, signed after the Rana Plaza disaster that cost the lives of over 1,100 garment workers in April 2013, is a landmark in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It is the first time that trade unions and garment brands worldwide have come together in the monitoring of a legally-binding instrument of this kind.
The Accord has six key components:
- A 5-year legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions to ensure a safe working environment in the Bangladeshi ready-made garment industry
- An independent inspection programme supported by brands in which workers and trade unions are involved
- Public disclosure of all factories, inspection reports and corrective action plans (CAP)
- A commitment by signatory brands to ensure sufficient funds are available for remediation and to maintain sourcing relationships
- Democratically-elected health and safety committees in all factories to identify and act on health and safety risks
- Worker empowerment through an extensive training programme, a complaints mechanism and the right to refuse unsafe work.
The meeting in Brussels explored the pressure that European worker representatives in European Works Councils, local works councils and trade union structures can exert on their own European employer for fulfilling commitments towards workers at the factories of their suppliers and subcontractors, as laid down in the Accord. Monitoring, enquiring, using the institutional tools made available to workers in European multinationals – such as European Works Council (EWC) or Board Level Employee Representatives (BLER) – and traditional trade union action are all on the agenda of the workshop.
The workshop was organised by the European Worker Participation Competence Centre and the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), in cooperation between industriAll Europe, IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and UNI Europa.