DHAKA – The Supreme Court in Bangladesh has deferred for a fifth time the date for further hearing of an appeal filed by the Bangladesh Accord for extending its stay in Bangladesh. The next hearing will take place after the country’s elections on 21 January. The decision to defer the full hearing means the Accord will have been in limbo for three months despite widespread international calls for it to remain in the country.
It is claimed the Bangladesh government is now trying to water down the Bangladesh Accord by attempting to impose restrictive constraints that strip it of its independence. Among government conditions are that the Accord decisions would be subject to the approval of a government committee, while another condition prohibits Accord inspectors from identifying any new safety violations, effectively requiring them to ignore hazards found during their inspections, such as faulty alarm systems, blocked fire exits, and cracks in structural columns.
Another condition prevents the Accord from taking any action against factory owners who threaten or fire workers for raising safety complaints.
It seems improbable that the Accord would remain in Bangladesh if stripped of its independence in this way, and it is possible some kind of compromise will be reached in the interim. It is also likely that the EU is monitoring this situation closely, with a number of MEPs already having signed a petition calling on the Bangladesh government to allow the Accord to remain. The EU is Bangladesh’s largest export market for clothing.
The Accord has committed to handing over its functions to a suitable national regulatory body, however, it is claimed the government’s Remediation and Coordination Cell (RCC) is still in an early stage of development and is not yet ready to perform the inspection tasks of the Accord.
The Accord is committed to building up the capacity of the RCC and to cooperation with the government and its inspection bodies to ensure a smooth transition.