One year ago today on 15 May 2013 history was made when a ground-breaking agreement brokered by IndustriALL Global Union and Uni Global Union to make a safer garment industry in Bangladesh was signed by 17 clothing brands.
The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety brought together the ready-made garment (RMG) industry and unions for the first time in a legally-binding agreement to inspect and improve the safety conditions of all factories supplying brands signed up to the Accord.
Jenny Holdcroft, Policy Director at IndustriALL, said:
The Accord replaces the ineffectual and piecemeal efforts by individual brands of the past with a binding agreement with trade unions. This is global industrial relations applied to global supply chain violations of workers’ rights.
The Bangladesh Accord, which now has 172 signatories, was a reaction to one of the worst industrial accidents of modern times, which killed over a thousand people and injured more than 2000 when the illegally-built Rana Plaza garment factory complex collapsed on 24 April 2013.
More than 550 factories have since been inspected on behalf of the Accord to identify fire, electrical and building safety hazards at factories producing for the brand signatories. By the end of September 2014, the Accord is on target to have inspected 1500 factories, covering more than 2 million workers.
Alongside working to improve safety conditions, IndustriALL has launched a major project to increase unionization in Bangladeshi garment factories believing that there cannot be an effective safety culture without an organized workforce. Before the Rana Plaza disaster, unionization at garment factories was minimal. A year on, IndustriALL affiliated unions have organized more than 40,000 workers in 120 factories.
IndustriALL also backs unions’ demands for increases in the minimum wage. While there was a 77 per cent increase in November 2013 from 38 to 67 USD per month, it is still a pitifully poor wage and IndustriALL continues to put pressure on brands to pay fair prices for garments.
IndustriALL is also heavily lobbying brands to pay into the independent Rana Plaza Trust Fund to give compensation to the victims and their dependents. A total of USD 40 million is needed to meet compensation payments in line with international standards. So far, less than half of this figure (USD 17 million) has been raised.
Read the statement from the Bangladesh Accord one year on.