RMG Fire and Building Safety: brands taken off from today
The Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement expires today, but only two retail clothing companies have so far agreed to renew their contracts.
The Accord website says more than 190 brands have pledged to be signatories to the agreement, which was formulated just weeks after the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013.
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The agreement acts as a binding safety program, where signatories can only source supplies from Accord certified factories. Failure to do so could expose them to litigation.
Some of the signatories were larger retailers like Primark, Tesco, H&M, American Eagle Outfitters, Marks & Spencer, Inditex, Benetton, Adidas and Loblaw.
But only the British brand ASOS Ltd and the German brand Tchibo agreed to renew the contract. The current contract was signed in May 2018.
In recent weeks, global unions like IndustriALL have said that without the Accord, nothing can stop brands from buying from suppliers who fail to meet safety standards.
One of the main tasks of the Agreement was to inspect factories and make them structurally safe and conform to international standards.
According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, the Accord has worked with more than 1,600 factories, but the database shows that not all have taken the necessary steps to make them fully compliant.
For example, as many as 130 factories working with Accord have yet to complete 50% of the recommended corrective actions to make them safe and compliant.
No less than 580 Accord factories completed more than 90% of the remediation work.
On June 1, 2020, the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) took over the Accord in Bangladesh with the mandate to continue factory inspections, sanitation monitoring and workplace programs.
“RSC is Accord’s successor in Bangladesh, and they can hold factories to account. But with RSC, there is no legal obligation for brands. Accord is legally binding, so brands can be brought to justice. . No matter what we do locally, brands have to be held accountable. Factories are only safe when brands can be held accountable, “said Kalpona Akhter, president of the Garment and Clothing Workers’ Federation. Bangladesh industry and founder of the Bangladesh Workers’ Solidarity Center.
Meanwhile, sources in bodies linked to the Accord said they were forced to extend the contract for another three months to give retailers more time to join.
On April 24, Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator of the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), told a press briefing: “Negotiations are going late because brands have requested it due to the pandemic and unions agreed. We reached out to the brands to find out about their stance on key features. “
Several brands have issued statements indicating their wish to opt for RSC in the future.
Swedish retail giant H&M released a statement saying: “When the transition agreement was signed in 2018, it was agreed by the brands and the signatory unions that after the agreement ended on the 31st. May 2021, the work will be handed over to a national regulatory body which would take over the work thereafter [i.e. RSC].
“This RSC has adopted all standards, conformance, protocols and Accord articles. We are committed to supporting the RSC, to continue to improve safety standards throughout the textile industry in Bangladesh, not just in factories producing for H&M Group.
Leading global brand C&A said, “In January 2020, the Accord steering committee signed an agreement with the Bangladesh Garment Employers Association. [BGMEA] on the transition to RSC. The Transition Agreement outlines the principles and stages of the Accord’s transition to RSC, which aims to bring together industry, brands and unions to advance important workplace safety achievements in Bangladesh. “
He also said: “We still believe that if we are to be effective, we must embed the success story and learning of the Accord into the JSR and we believe that an agreement to do so is always possible and highly. desirable.”
However, another Swedish retail group Lindex said: “In May 2020, the Bangladesh Supreme Court ruled that the foreign structure of the Accord could not be maintained operationally in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Supreme Court effectively ruled prohibits the Bangladesh Accord from operating in Bangladesh. “
“Therefore, a new structure was needed and the operations of the Accord in Bangladesh were transferred, with the support of the ILO, to the newly founded RSC. The protocols, standards and resources of the Accord were effectively transferred to RSC in 2020. We are committed to ensuring the independence, resources and funding of this organization to ensure safe working conditions for all workers in Bangladesh. now and in the future, ”the group said.
At the same time, a recent report released by the CCC, the Worker Rights Consortium, the Maquila Solidarity Network and Global Labor Justice found that 12 major brands that are currently signatories to the Accord are still sourcing from factories that don’t. have not completed their remediation.
The report, titled “Unfinished Businesses: Exceptional Safety Risks in Garment Factories, shows that the Agreement must be extended and extended”, the brands named Aldi Nord, Aldi Süd, Bestseller, C&A, H&M, Lidl, Lindex, Loblaw, PVH, Varner Group, WE Mode and Zeeman.
“Each brand included in this report is fully aware of the safety deficiencies at its factories in Bangladesh and receives regular reports on this as part of the Agreement,” the report said.
H&M, for example, was named for its supply from 118 factories without emergency exits, 159 factories without fire alarms and 163 factories without fire extinguishing systems.
In response, the brand said, “The numbers mentioned in the ‘Unfinished Business’ report do not mean that factories do not have these safety mechanisms. It may refer to whether these mechanisms require maintenance or are not. of adequate size according to international safety standards. Some of the problems mentioned in the report have already been corrected, but due to lockdowns and fewer factory visits due to Covid-19, the Accord has not been able to verify these corrections. “
Bestseller was named in the report for sourcing from 70 factories without a safe exit and 90 factories without fire alarms.
In response, the brand said: “Covid-19 has made it difficult for RSC staff to officially verify improvements, as site visits have been suspended. As a result, much progress has not been officially recorded and are therefore not reflected in these figures. “
The Daily Star yesterday attempted to contact BGMEA chairman Faruque Hassan for comment on the matter, but did not respond to calls and texts.
In a letter published on April 29, he said: “The BGMEA has the utmost respect for global unions and their affiliates. At the same time, on the industry side, we strongly support the principles on which the RSC has been founded.
“This is a national initiative with global standards. It will not be ordered by any outside authority. The Agreement expired in 2018 and there was no agreed extension. We do not recognize the Transition Agreement and neither do the Government of Bangladesh, which will expire on May 31, 2021. Likewise, any other extensions or new agreements will not be recognized and will not form part of any security-related initiatives. Bangladesh is looking forward to it. We draw your attention to the fact that no organization or authority like The Agreements exist anywhere in the world where clothing is manufactured. “