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Bangladesh High Court Puts New Accord on Hold

The Bangladesh High Court issued a stay this week on implementation of the Bangladesh Accord for Building and Fire Safety 2018, a renewed agreement between European fashion brands and trade unions in the country’s garment industry, saying it was signed without the approval of the government.

Justices Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Mohammad Ullah issued the order after hearing a writ petition filed by Bangladesh National Garment Workers Employees League challenging the legality of the implementation of the Accord 2018 agreement, according to The Daily Star newspaper in Bangladesh.

The stay is in effect until May 15, 2018. The court gave the Bangladesh Accord Foundation, the Labor Ministry and the chief inspector at the Department of Inspection for factories and establishments four weeks to respond to the ruling.

This new Accord, the second after the initial program took shape in May 2013, was signed on June 21 this year and is scheduled to go into effect in May 2018 (which is with the original Accord expires) and be in place for three years. Bangladesh’s garment factory owners have objected to the new agreement, and the government is supporting the owners.

The agreement has so far been signed by Kmart Australia, Target Australia, Primark, H&M, Inditex, C&A, Otto, KiK, Aldi South, Aldi North, Lidl, Tchibo, LC Waikiki and Helly Hansen. Another eight brands have committed to signing it.

[Read more about problems in Bangladesh: Bangladesh Textile Factory Fire Claims Six Lives]

Global unions IndustriALL and UNI recently called on fashion brands to sign the second Accord, saying extension of the Accord is the “only credible way” to prevent life-threatening hazards in garment factories in Bangladesh. The original accord came about following the tragic Rana Plaza fire that killed more than 1,100 people in April 2013.

Meanwhile, in a new white paper released Wednesday and sent to the European Commission, the Clean Clothes Campaign, the International Trade Union Confederation, the European Trade Union Confederation, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union is said to provide clear evidence that, despite signing a “Sustainability Compact” with the European Union four years ago, the government of Bangladesh remains in violation of  this compact, failing to make vital reforms required to ensure its garment industry complies with core international labor standards.

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The white paper focuses on four key areas that have remained a major focus of concern for the EU, the ILO, unions and labor rights groups, and other stakeholders in the international community following the catastrophic collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, including labor law reform, freedom of association in the Export Processing Zones, improving union registration and the curtailing of anti-union discrimination.

“Despite promises made, it is still extremely difficult for workers in Bangladesh to exercise their fundamental labor rights,” Jenny Holdcroft, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, said. “The continued failure of the Bangladeshi government to take the necessary action to protect workers’ rights is ample reason for the EU to launch the much-needed trade investigation.”