The Accord Agreement

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The Accord Agreement: A Comprehensive Guide

The Accord Agreement, also known as the Bangladesh Accord or the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, is a legally binding agreement aimed at improving working conditions in the garment industry in Bangladesh. The agreement was established in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, which took the lives of over 1,100 garment workers. The Accord Agreement is considered a significant step towards ensuring the safety and dignity of the people who make our clothes.

Background

Before the Accord Agreement, the garment industry in Bangladesh faced a series of challenges, including unsafe working conditions, low wages, and a lack of accountability. The industry employs over four million people, mostly women, and the country is one of the largest garment exporters in the world. However, the industry’s growth was marred by frequent incidents of factory fires and building collapses.

The Rana Plaza tragedy, which occurred on April 24, 2013, was a wake-up call for the industry. The building, which housed several garment factories, collapsed due to structural defects, killing over 1,100 workers and injuring thousands. The incident received international attention and brought to light the dire working conditions that many garment workers in Bangladesh faced.

In the aftermath of the disaster, international brands and retailers that sourced their products from Bangladesh faced pressure to improve the safety and working conditions of their suppliers. The Accord Agreement was established as a response to this pressure.

What is the Accord Agreement?

The Accord Agreement is a legally binding agreement between international brands and retailers, trade unions, and worker rights organizations. The agreement aims to create a safe and healthy working environment for workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh. It outlines a set of standards and requirements that companies must adhere to, including:

• Regular safety inspections of factories

• Remediation of safety hazards

• Workers’ right to refuse unsafe work

• Worker participation in safety committees

• Training for workers and management on safety and health issues

The Accord Agreement also establishes a binding complaints mechanism, where workers can report safety violations and other grievances without fear of retaliation.

Who is involved in the Accord Agreement?

The Accord Agreement is signed by international brands and retailers that source their products from Bangladesh, as well as trade unions and worker rights organizations. As of 2020, over 200 brands and retailers have signed the agreement, including H&M, Zara, and Adidas. The agreement is also supported by several trade unions and worker rights organizations, including IndustriALL, UNI Global Union, and the Clean Clothes Campaign.

What impact has the Accord Agreement had?

Since its establishment, the Accord Agreement has had a significant impact on improving working conditions in the garment industry in Bangladesh. The agreement has led to the inspection of over 2,000 factories, identifying and remediating safety hazards, and training workers and management on health and safety issues.

In addition to these concrete improvements, the Accord Agreement has also facilitated a culture of accountability and transparency in the industry. By requiring companies to publicly disclose their suppliers and the results of safety inspections, the agreement has made it easier for consumers and stakeholders to hold brands accountable for their supply chain practices.

Challenges and future of the Accord Agreement

Despite its successes, the Accord Agreement faces several challenges. The agreement was initially meant to be a five-year initiative, but it has been extended several times due to the complexities of implementing the required changes. As of 2020, the agreement has been extended until 2021.

In addition, not all brands and retailers have signed the Accord Agreement, and some have even withdrawn from it. This lack of universal participation undermines the agreement’s effectiveness and raises concerns about the safety standards in factories that are not covered by the agreement.

Moving forward, the future of the Accord Agreement remains uncertain. It is crucial that international brands and retailers continue to prioritize the safety and working conditions of their suppliers, and that the government of Bangladesh takes steps to strengthen labor laws and regulations. The Accord Agreement has shown that it is possible to improve working conditions in the garment industry, but the work is far from over.