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New Bangladesh Safety Accord Goes Into Effect Without Key Brands

The new Bangladesh worker safety pact, known as the Transition Accord, has fallen short of its goal of retaining 100 percent of the signatories from the initial agreement.

Established following the deadly Rana Plaza factory disaster in 2013, the Accord was a five-year agreement between brands and labor unions designed to improve garment industry safety standards that ended last week. Following the factory collapse that claimed the lives of more than a thousand workers, the Accord was established to inspect and remediate factories in Bangladesh.

The Transition Accord, which went into effect on Friday, counts 175 garment and home textiles businesses as supporters. The original agreement, however, was 220 companies strong.

The Clean Clothes Campaign called out Abercrombie & Fitch, Sean John Apparel and Edinburgh Woollen Mill as notable hold outs. For its part, Abercrombie told Reuters it is still reviewing the new agreement.

IKEA too has refused to sign the new agreement, which is now open to factories producing home textiles, fabric and knit accessories. Instead, the home furnishing giant relies on its IKEA Way code of conduct.

“We operate on a highly competitive market, and for competitive reasons we don’t hand out a list of our suppliers in Bangladesh or any other country,” IKEA told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Clean Clothes counters that this is insufficient, saying “The Accord offers to only road towards safer factories in a country in which voluntary corporate social auditing systems has in the past failed to prevent the thousands of deaths of the Rana Plaza and Tazreen factory catastrophes. In response to that, the Accord is a collective scheme, that is a legally binding agreement between a great amount of brands and trade unions and contains extensive enforcement mechanisms.”

The group also pointed out Walmart, Gap and VF Corporation for their lack of support for any Accord efforts dating back over the five years.

Christie Miedema, campaign and public outreach coordinator for Clean Clothes, said “IKEA, Abercrombie, VF Corporation and any other company that has thus far refrained from joining the Accord are doing themselves and their customers a disservice and are knowingly putting the lives of the workers producing for them at risk by sticking to opaque systems that so woefully failed in the past.”