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Temporary extension of Fire Safety Accord in Bangladesh

Jun 03, 2021
Temporary extension of Fire Safety Accord in Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh

A last-minute deal between brands, retailers and unions to extend negotiations for three more months prevented the lapse of an agreement aimed at protecting garment workers’ safety in Bangladesh. It was originally set to expire on May 31.

In 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people and injuring 2,500. The eight-floor building housed five garment factories owned by brands throughout Europe and North America. A committee, appointed by the Bangladeshi government, held poor construction and overly-heavy equipment responsible for the accident.

The accident shook Bangladesh’s $34 billion garment industry which employs more than 4 million people and the Accord on Fire and Safety in Bangladesh was signed later in 2013.

The accord has been signed by American Eagle Outfitters, H&M and Hugo Boss, who are accountable by creating an independent factory inspection program, and forcing more industry transparency, by requiring the posting of practically all of its work online. However, many brands such as Walmart Inc, The Gap, Inc. JanSport, etc. have never signed on to the accord.

Since 2013, hundreds of factories across Bangladesh have been inspected, and have remedied workplace hazards. If brands do not comply, they could wind up in court. Yet, the initiative was set up to be temporary.

According to Kalpona Akter, president, Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, the three months' extension is just a respite and it would maintain the status quo, but the issue is just postponed and not solved. Her union represents some 150,000 garment workers and they fear that if the accord expires, it will become almost impossible to retain accountable brands and retailers that operate in Bangladesh.

Akter said that eight brands are willing to support a new binding agreement, and she along with other activists hope more brands will support the cause. Kalpona Akter said that the initiative also gave unions and workers sufficient safety.

Source: The World

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