The original Accord was born in 2013 in response to the Rana Plaza building collapse and the safety issues the tragedy unearthed for Bangladesh. It was expected to run a five-year term, and though there had been talk of authorities in Bangladesh not wanting to see the agreement extend beyond its slated 2018 end, the Accord said Thursday that a second Accord will pick up where the first one left off.
“The new agreement demonstrates that international brands and global trade unions recognize the positive impact of the Accord and the need for the Accord to continue its work in Bangladesh to ensure that factories are made safe and stay safe,” Accord executive director and acting chief safety inspector Rob Wayss, said.
[Read more about Bangladesh’s forward motion: Moody’s Touts Bangladesh Garment Sector as Growth Vehicle]
So far, H&M, Inditex (Zara), Kmart Australia, Target Australia, Primark, C&A, Otto, KiK, Aldi South, Aldi North, Lidl, Tchibo, LC Waikiki and Helly Hansen—all of which had been signatories of the first agreement—have already signed on for round two.
With the new Accord, which will enter into effect in May 2018 when the current agreement expires, independent factory safety inspections and remediation will continue, safety training will be extended to all factories, and additional commitments to ensure freedom of association will also be in place.
“Over the past four years, unions and worker safety organizations have worked together with global brands within the Accord to find a solution to the seemingly intractable problem of dangerous factories in Bangladesh. Many said that change was not possible. We’ve proven them wrong,” Christy Hoffman, deputy general secretary of UNI Global Union, said in a statement. “Our aim is to create a global economy which respects the lives and dignity of all workers, and the Accord is a big step along that path. The 2018 Accord will continue the forward motion.”
The news of the new Accord appreciated by those buying from Bangladesh as it follows the U.S. action that put the country on its Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking and modern slavery, and the added eyes inspecting factories could help catch some of these instances.
Though the U.S. noted Bangladesh has made “significant efforts” to quell human trafficking, the Watch List ranking is a downgrade from the country’s Tier 2 position in the last reporting period.
“Official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a serious problem, yet the government did not make efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict allegedly complicit law enforcement, border, and manpower officials,” the State Department report noted. “While the government maintained labor export agreements with several countries that aim to tackle recruitment fees, the government’s continued allowance of high recruitment fees combined with insufficient efforts to address illegally operating recruitment sub-agents left workers vulnerable to trafficking.”