6 November, 2023Global trade unions and fashion brands and retailers have reached agreement on a new International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry. The renegotiated contract secures the work of the Accord until the end of the decade, strengthens the complaint mechanism for workers and includes commitments for an expansion into other countries.
The three-year legally binding agreement, which is effective from 1 November 2023, automatically renews after three years without the need for negotiations. Brands commit to continue the health and safety programs in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and to establish programmes in other countries. Conditions for expansion to other countries are based on feasibility studies and progress in the Accord’s existing country programs.
Atle Høie, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, says:
“Since its inception ten years ago, the Accord has been instrumental in making the garment industry safer. We now have a long-term, sustainable solution for the Accord with substantial scope for development when it comes to new countries and inclusion of the fundamental principles and rights at work as core building blocks in the complaint’s mechanism and in the training programmes.”
The new International Accord will continue to build on the foundations that have made the Accord so effective including independent factory inspections, remediation, safety training and an effective worker complaints mechanism.
In a boost to workers’ rights, the complaints mechanism will be expanded to include non-occupational safety and health issues, including freedom of association, following a pilot study.
Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union, says:
“This agreement is proof positive that the Accord model of supply chain regulation - a binding agreement between brands and global unions - has staying power. Many considered that it was a flash in the pan exercise in response to the crisis of Rana Plaza. But today the parties have agreed to a six-year deal which expands both the geographic coverage of the program and the issues within its scope. With the recent roll out of requirements for due diligence in the supply chain, employers everywhere should note that the Accord is a model with a proven track record.”
Under a new framework, the International Accord will act as a stand-alone framework agreement, with addendums for each country safety program. All brands sourcing from these countries are invited to sign these addendums in addition to the International Accord. The Agreement will be implemented through the International Accord Foundation and its secretariat, based in Amsterdam, as well as country offices.
The agreement also envisages a strong role for the International Labour Organization (ILO) in supporting country programmes to ensure they are implemented and effective. The ILO has long acted as a neutral chair of the Accord’s Steering Committee.
- The Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh was initially signed on 15 May 2013 between UNI Global Union, IndustriALL Global Union, eight Bangladeshi trade unions and 40 brands. More than 220 global brands and retailers had signed the Bangladesh Accord by 2018 protecting over 2 million workers in 1,600 factories.
- To maintain and expand the Accord progress, over 190 brands and retailers signed the 2018 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Transition Accord) with UNI and IndustriALL on 1 June 2018.
- In May 2019, the Accord Steering Committee signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Association (BGMEA) in which it was agreed to establish a national, independent organization, the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) to carry forward the workplace safety programmes of the Accord in Bangladesh.
- In 2021 the Accord signatories reached a new phase in their partnership and established the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile & Garment Industry (International Accord). This agreement came into effect on 1 September 2021 with 77 brand signatories. As of 26 October 2023, the International Accord has 199 brands and retailers as signatories.
- The Pakistan Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry (Pakistan Accord) between UNI, IndustriALL and brands and retailers was announced in December 2022, and began implementation in 2023 in progressive phases for an initial period of three years. It currently has 80 signatories.