Bangladeshi Textile Workers and Merchants Have Agreed to Prolong a Worker Safety Agreement

Major international retailers and labor groups have agreed to prolong their accord on factory safety.

Major international retailers have reached an agreement with Bangladeshi garment workers and factory owners for a two-year period, extending a previous accord that holds merchants accountable if their facilities fail to meet labor safety regulations.

The statement, which was signed by Joris Oldenziel, the deal’s deputy director, and officials from UNI Global Union and IndustriALL Global Union, certifies the content of a copy of the treaty, according to the Reuters news agency.

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“This is a legally binding agreement between companies and trade unions to make ready-made garment (RMG) and textile factories safe,” the statement said.

“The renewed agreement advances the fundamental elements that made the accord successful.”

The Bangladesh Accord, as it was known at the time, was set to expire on August 31.

The new version, dubbed the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, takes effect on September 1 and has a broader scope.

H&M, Inditex, Fast Retailing’s Uniqlo, Hugo Boss, and Adidas were among the 200 stores who signed the agreement in 2013. On September 1, a list of others who have also signed up for the extension will be made public, according to reports.

Uniqlo hasn’t seen the new agreement yet, but they “generally welcome a new binding agreement… that has independent control and can be expanded to additional countries,” according to a spokesman.

Requests for comment from H&M, Inditex, Hugo Boss, and Adidas were not immediately returned.

The five-year agreement, which was reached in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, which killed over 1,100 garment workers, established an independent agency that conducted thousands of inspections and prohibited dangerous firms from supplying signatory buyers.

According to labor groups, this helped make 1,600 factories safer for 2 million workers.

After the original agreement expired in 2018, a newly constituted entity, the Ready-Made Garments Sustainability Council (RSC), which brings together unions, brands, and factory owners, assumed responsibility for workplace inspections.

The RSC, on the other hand, did not take over one aspect of the agreement: the authority to bring merchants to court in their home country if they fail to satisfy their responsibilities, such as breaking links with factories that do not match the accord’s standards.

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The signatories also agreed to discuss which nations the agreement could be expanded to within six months, with the goal of establishing it in at least one more country within two years, according to the statement.

Negotiations regarding the deal’s extension halted in May, according to insiders, when US-based merchants refused to agree to the legally binding aspect of the arrangement.

Retailers who refused to sign the initial agreement in 2013 – including Target, Walmart, and VF Corp – created a parallel association with identical functions but no legal enforcement capabilities.

Sources stated in May that those driving the talks aimed to reach an agreement on an extension that US retailers would accept.

Walmart, on the other hand, told Reuters on Tuesday that it was not part of the agreement’s prolongation. Requests for comment from Target and VF Corp were not returned.

Source: AL JAZEERA

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