Accord on Fire and Building Safety, the legally binding initiative to ensure safe workplaces for readymade garment factory workers, will continue beyond its May 2018 deadline as the local regulatory body is not ready yet in Bangladesh.
After an Oct 19 meeting, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said the accord was given six more months beyond the deadline to hand over its work to the labour ministry’s Remediation Coordination Cell.
International Labour Organization, IndustriAll and Uni Global representatives sat with two ministers, and top officials of the BGMEA and FBCCI that day.
He said the accord would be known as ‘Transition Accord’ during the extended period.
“The Accord is ready to continue operations beyond May 2018 as all parties recognise, substantial additional capacity-building is necessary before responsibility to protect workers in factories producing for Accord signatory brands can be responsibly handed over to a national regulatory body,” the accord said in a statement on Thursday.
According to the statement, the government confirmed last week it would extend the permission of the accord to continue beyond May 2018 until a joint monitoring committee, comprised of accord brand signatories, accord trade union signatories, BGMEA, ILO and the government, agreed that the “stated conditions” for a handover are met.
“This joint monitoring body will review the progress towards meeting these conditions on a bi-annual basis,” the accord says.
The readiness conditions include demonstrated proficiency in inspection capacity, remediation of hazards, enforcement of the law against non-compliant factories, full transparency of governance and remediation progress, and investigation and fair resolution of workers’ safety complaints.
“When the joint monitoring committee agrees the conditions for handover have been met, there will be a further transition period of six months, after which the local body would assume responsibility for factories now covered by the Accord,” it added.
The statement quoted Pascal Brun, H&M Head of Sustainability Global Production, as saying, “H&M is confident that the remarkable achievements of the 2013 Accord will be sustained through the ‘Transition Accord’ until it is demonstrated that a credible regulatory body with the rigorous oversight mechanisms can take over all Accord functions.”
Jenny Holdcroft, IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary and Accord Board member, said, “We have always aimed for the Accord functions to transition to a national regulatory body provided that the full capacity, transparency, and governance are in place.”
“And that we can be assured that the worker protections under the Accord continue to be safeguarded.”
Accord wanted to continue operations for three more years and signed a new agreement in June this year.
Bangladesh’s garment factory owners have objected to the new agreement – a position that enjoys government backing.
The High Court on Oct 16 halted the new accord between the fashion brands and trade unions, asking why it should not be cancelled for signing without permission from the government, owners and workers of the country.
Accord and Alliance for Workers Safety were formed after the deaths of over 1,100 workers in the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse raised concerns among the buyer countries over workplace safety in Bangladesh.
The Alliance is winding up its operations by the May 2018 deadline, the commerce minister earlier said.