Accord's extension now more difficult
The Accord's bid to stay on in Bangladesh for three more years has become trickier after the High Court this week restrained the government for extending the inspection agency's tenure because of a writ petition filed by Smart Jeans.
The government has been restrained by a high court bench of Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed and Justice Md Salim.
Were there no order, the EU-based inspection agency might have succeeded in securing the extension by lobbying with the ministries of commerce and labour and employment. Now, the court's permission is needed for the extension to come through.
Since there is an injunction, the government will not be able to extend the tenure of the Accord beyond May 31, said Md Yousuf Ali, a lawyer of Smart Jeans.
Mostafizur Rahman, chairman of Smart Jeans, had filed the writ petition against the Accord after the platform of more than 200 retailers, mostly based in Europe, terminated its business relationship with the Chittagong-based garment maker.
Smart Jeans is mostly a supplier to the members of the Alliance, another platform like the Accord but composed of 28 North American retailers. But, it supplies to signatories of the Accord from time to time.
There was an understanding between the Accord and the Alliance that they will accept the inspection certification of each other in case of common factories to avoid duplication.
Since Smart Jeans is largely a supplier to Alliance members, the platform's inspectors examined the three factories owned by Rahman and suggested necessary remediation works. Rahman completed the remediation works and the Alliance engineers also gave their seal of approval.
Meanwhile, the Accord engineers also inspected the factories and found the corrective works to be unsatisfactory.
Based on their recommendation, the Accord signatories unilaterally terminated ties with Smart Jeans, prompting Rahman to take the platform to court.
Earlier on October 26 last year, the same bench of the court issued an order, asking why the unilateral decision of severing of the business ties of Smart Group with the Accord signatories will not be declared illegal.
On the same day, the Accord said on its website that the government has already extended its tenure by three years.
After noticing the news of the extension on the Accord website, the court gave a supplementary rule on it and restrained the government until April 4 from extending the tenure of the Accord.
After the injunction was issued, Rahman was informed that the Accord members would be able to do business with Smart Jeans now. Rob Wayss, executive director for the Bangladesh operations of the Accord, did not respond to requests for comments.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is a five-year independent, legally binding agreement signed on May 15, 2013 between more than 200 retailers and trade unions designed to build a safe garment industry in the country.
It intends to stay on in the country for three years after its current agreement expires on May 31 mainly to monitor the trade union activities of garment workers.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on several occasions said the government will extend the tenure of the Accord only by six months to help it take preparation to leave the country.
Although, there is an uncertainty in the formation of the second Accord, until yesterday nearly 140 global retailers and brands signed it, according to the IndustriALL, a global rights group.