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Bangladesh’s garment industry awaits safety accord renewals

May 17, 2021
Bangladesh’s garment industry awaits safety accord renewals

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Eight years after the infamous Rana Plaza collapse incident, the garment industry in Bangladesh was supposed to be in a better state. While progress was made after the global apparel brands entered into safety agreements with local factories, there seems to be no update on the renewal of the accords. One of the accords expired in 2018 while the other one is set to expire by the end of the month.

Bangladesh is currently battling the severe COVID situation that has shut its schools, public transportation and most workplaces. The country’s garment manufacturers have lobbied to keep the factories running amidst complaints and clashes about pay cuts, late wages and inadequate COVID protections. The government support is not enough and the workers are seeking support from global brands and retailers, through the agreements to keep their health and safety in check.

The two agreements set the terms for inspecting, repairing and upgrading factories to reasonable safety standards after the Rana Plaza incident. The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, an agreement between unions and brands, required brands to assess their suppliers’ factories health and safety standards and make funds available for any needed improvements. Over its first five years, the temporary accord produced more than 100,000 safety improvements in 1,500 factories.

Last year, the brands and unions agreed to establish a new governance structure that included factory representatives and a non-profit to manage inspections and remediation. But there has been no progress and hundreds of factories still lack basic measures like safe exits, smoke alarms and fire suppression gear.

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