Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Centre Court for Bangladeshi Workers

The Bangladesh Accord was signed in 2013 after the Rana Plaza disaster when more than 1,100 people were killed in the collapse of the building complex, as an independent, legally-binding agreement between global brands and trade unions to establish a fire and building safety programme for workers in the textile industry.

Trade unions hailed a landmark ruling allowing complaints to proceed against two global fashion brands for allegedly violating an agreement. Two cases will be the first that the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague judges under the accord.

"For any brand that isn't in compliance, this decision sends a message that they cannot shirk their responsibilities to worker safety," said Jenny Holdcroft of IndustriALL Global Union, one of two unions federations to lodge the complaints.

"This decision is a win for worker safety and for accountability in Bangladesh's garment industry," said Christy Hoffman, deputy secretary general of the UNI Global Union. "The legally-binding nature of the Accord is a central pillar of its effectiveness."

The complaints allege that the two brands failed to compel their suppliers to improve their facilities within the mandatory deadlines, and did not help them to cover the costs to do so. The names of the two fashion brands accused must remain confidential, according to the PCA.

Bangladesh, which ranks behind only China as a supplier of clothes to Western countries, relies on apparel for more than 80 percent of its exports and about 4 million jobs. Under the accord, more than 118,500 fire, electrical and structural hazards have been identified at 1,800 factories which supply at least 200 brands.

The Rana Plaza disaster prompted fashion retailers to work more closely together to protect workers and ensure the safety of buildings in the South Asian nation, and legislation was introduced to ensure greater supply-chain transparency. Yet campaigners say the progress by retailers in fixing problems in the supply chain has been slow - with long hours, low pay, poor safety standards and not being allowed to form trade unions common complaints from garment workers.

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