19 May, 2019A breakthrough agreement has been reached between the Accord and the Bangladesh garment employers’ association (BGMEA) that will ensure that the progress made on factory safety in Bangladesh will continue. On 19 May, the agreement was accepted by the Bangladesh Appellate Court which has given permission for the Accord to continue during a 12 month transition period.
During the time since the Bangladesh High Court decided that the Accord must cease operations in Bangladesh on November 30 2018, the Accord brands and trade unions have been in negotiations with the Bangladesh government to find a way to break the impasse. The Appellate Court granted a series of time extensions to allow these talks to continue, but made it clear that no more extensions would be granted.
Only a few days prior to the court hearing on May 19, the Accord reached an agreement with the BGMEA on principles for an eventual handover from the Accord to a new body based in Bangladesh, the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC). This agreement preserves the Accord operations into the future and guarantees a role for trade unions.
The new body will eventually take over the entire Accord operations, functions and staff. Its governance will have the participation of the BGMEA/BKMEA, brands and global and national trade unions. The RSC will operate within the regulatory framework of the relevant Government department, but will be separate from Government.
After the transition, the RSC will continue with factory inspections, remediation, follow up inspections, worker training, and the independent grievance mechanism, thus providing brands, trade unions and consumers with the necessary assurance that the vital elements of the Accord’s groundbreaking safety program will be preserved.
Importantly, all existing transparency features of the Accord will be maintained, including full disclosure of all results of inspection and remediation activities on a public website.
UNI General Secretary Christy Hoffman said:
“The agreement between the Accord and the BGMEA is an important step forward in keeping worker safety at the forefront of the Bangladesh RMG industry. The lifesaving work of the Accord can continue.”
Valter Sanches, IndustriALL General Secretary said: “IndustriALL's goal since we started the Accord has always been to safeguard the safety and health of the workers. The continued role for the national Bangladeshi trade unions in the permanent national monitoring safety compliance system (RMG Sustainability Council) is key to keep ensuring that worker safety is not compromised. Local and global trade unions will continue to work hard to guarantee that Bangladeshi garment workers have the highest level of worker safety training and access to an independent grievance mechanism.”
To facilitate the transition to the RSC, the BGMEA will designate a Chief Technical Officer and an engineer to be placed in the Accord office in Dhaka. This will enable the BGMEA to gain the necessary knowledge and experience of the Accord’s day-to-day operations and to ensure an effective and smooth transition to the RSC.
During the transition period of 281 days granted by the Court, the Accord shall be granted its legal permission to operate in Bangladesh.