DHAKA – The Government of Bangladesh appears to have dashed hopes that it would extend the tenure of the Bangladesh Accord beyond November 30 in a move some believe could potentially endanger the lives of garment factory workers. The tenure of the Accord was initially supposed to come to an end in May but the government extended it by six months. There have been international calls by MEPs and labour rights NGOs for this deadline to be extended, however, Mujibul Haque Chunnu, state minister for labour and employment, has now confirmed the timeline will be adhered to.
The Government now says the Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) – effectively an internal replacement for the Accord made up of internal factory inspectors and engineers – is now ready to take over the Accord’s work. The handover of the work has been ongoing for some time.
More than 50 MEPs recently signed a letter by Dutch MEP Agnes Jongerius, urging EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, to take action to avert premature closure of the Bangladesh Accord.
The letter said: “In 2013, the five-year legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety (the Accord) in Bangladesh was signed between global apparel brands, retailers, and trade unions, in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed 1134 garment workers.
“It has come to our attention that the succession of the Accord is at a critical juncture. The implementation of this so-called 2018 Transition Accord is at stake, because it is facing the closure of the Accord Foundation office at the 30 November 2018 by the Government of Bangladesh due to a verdict of the Bangladesh Supreme Court.
“This means that the Accord Foundation office will be forced to close its operations, making it much more difficult for the Accord agreement to be implemented, affecting millions of workers in unsafe, not yet fully remediated factories. Although 85 per cent of the Accord goals were achieved, it is still necessary to meet the safety goals and to assist the Government of Bangladesh to develop an adequate national regulatory unit to oversee workplace safety.
“In our view, the premature close down of the Accord Foundation office has negative consequences for the employees in the garment industry. It is also inconsistent with the commitments from the Government of Bangladesh towards the Sustainability Compact. Moreover, the authorities are not prepared to regulate safety in the garment factories.”
It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Bangladesh is potentially leaving itself hugely exposed here were any kind of factory accident to happen after the Accord – which has done so much fantastic work in the country – has effectively been ushered out of the door.