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Bangladesh Court Puts Worker Safety at Risk by Closing Watchdog

  • Bangladesh Court Puts Worker Safety at Risk by Closing Watchdog.

    Bangladesh Court Puts Worker Safety at Risk by Closing Watchdog. | Photo: Reuters file

Published 28 November 2018
Opinion

The international regime put in place to protect Bangladeshi garment industry workers will be closed over alleged lack of government scrutiny, decided the Bangladeshi High Court.

An international regime put in place to oversee Bangladeshi workers safety after the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment industry complex, killing 1,100 workers, is forced to leave the country due to an alleged lack of government scrutiny.

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The Accord’s mandate expired this year, however, a two-year extension was negotiated, which a Bangladesh court is now reneging on.

The closing of the Accord’s Dhaka office curtails the ability to conduct inspections of thousands of factories supplying clothes to global brands such as H&M, Spirit, and Primark.

“The premature shut down of the Accord, leaving workers in unsafe circumstances, would jeopardize the brands’ ability to source from a safe industry,” Jaris Oldenziel, deputy director of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, told Reuters.

The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety http://bangladeshaccord.org/ is a five-year legally binding tool which came into place on May 2013, “It is a fiver year independent, legally binding agreement between global brands and retailers and trade unions designed to build a safe and healthy Bangladeshi Ready Made Garment (RMG) Industry,” according to the official website of the Accord.

Over 200 firms, which include ZARA and H&M have signed the Accord.

The closing of the Accord’s Dhaka office (operations to continue from the Netherlands office) will also mean that the regime will advise signatory countries to stop sourcing from nearly 500 factories which have outstanding safety issues that can no longer be inspected.  

More than 2,000 factories were inspected by the Accord leading to plans to fix 150,000 structural and fire hazards, in Bangladeshi’s garment industry.

The High Court’s attempted justification of its decision was that the Accord functioned without sufficient government oversight.

For his part, the minister of commerce believes the regime is obsolete, “We don’t need them anymore,” and that the government can conduct its own inspections of factories.

But there are critical voices from worker’s in the industry, “If they go, Bangladesh’s garment industry will go back to square one. Workers’ rights and safety will not be protected,” said Babul Akhter, president of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation.

Approximately 180 brands who are signatories of the Accord would likely need to close operations in Bangladesh due to the closing of the Dhaka office, a reason for which they have put pressure on the government to sway the Court to unblock the regime’s agreed on proceedings.

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