Under a ticking clock, The Bangladesh Accord on Fire Building Safety is being reenvisioned as of Wednesday.
Now called the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, the Accord hopes to gain new favor and expanded application. Already, brands like Uniqlo, Asos, G-Star and Esprit have committed to renewing the Accord.
First signed in 2013, the Accord became a landmark stance on garment worker safety following the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 garment workers. The Accord was set to expire in May after earlier extensions, but public pressure prolonged negotiations.
“Today is a win for the workers in Bangladesh because the Accord saves lives,” said Nazma Akter, executive director of Awaj Foundation and member of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation. “I hope all major brands sourcing from Bangladesh sign on to the new agreement.”
While the pioneering Accord is expected to continue protecting garment workers in Bangladesh, the model is being expanded internationally to other garment-producing nations where workers’ lives remain daily at risk.
Brands are encouraged to sign on to the legally binding agreement before Sept. 1 to expand protective measures in high-risk sourcing countries in South Asian regions but can join anytime afterward.
Many elements of the Accord remain intact but protections are increasingly designed to expand protection and assurance to garment workers — not just in Bangladesh, but in any “high-risk” sourcing country. China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan are all deemed “high risk” by human rights watchdog Remake for the prevalence of fast-fashion subcontracting (where instances of wage theft have been noted) and lagging protections. Instead of brands voluntarily agreeing to supply chain accountability, the Accord underlines legal accountability for brands to uphold human rights due diligence in their supply chains.
In absence of effective labor law implementation in many sourcing countries, Pakistan for example, Khalid Mahmood, director of the Labour Education Foundation, said: “Global brands have to share the responsibility of providing freedom of association, living wages, social protection and safe working conditions to garment workers across the supply chain. A legally binding Accord can be an effective tool for securing basic rights of workers but it can only be effective with meaningful participation from an organized labor force.”
An independent secretariat will also serve to mitigate disagreements and maintain objectivity in the Accord’s enforcement.