Renewed calls for major brands to sign Accord
Clean Clothes Campaign, the world's largest alliance of garment industry labour unions, piled pressure on the major brands connected to the Tazreen factory fire to sign the International Accord, which protects workers in Bangladesh.
The International Accord, which came into effect on September 1 last year as the successor to the 2013 and 2018 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, is a legally binding and enforceable system that holds brands to account for its suppliers and gives workers avenues to raise their safety issues effectively.
A total of 186 brands and retailers have signed on the International Accord, CCC said in a statement on the 10th anniversary of the Tazreen factory fire, which claimed at least 117 lives and injured more than 200, making it the deadliest factory fire in the nation's history.
"A decade later, there are however still brands which have failed to draw the lessons from the preventable deaths at Tazreen and Rana Plaza," it said, adding that many of the deaths in the fire accident on November 24, 2012 were because they were unable to escape -- trapped between locked exits and barred windows.
Major brands connected to the Tazreen fire, like Walmart, Sears and Disney, as well as brands implicated in the Rana Plaza collapse less than six months later, like French supermarket chain Auchan, JC Penney, The Children's Place and, again, Walmart, continue to "ignore workers' safety" by not signing the International Accord.
The International Accord has "proven its worth" by preventing mass casualties in the industry and making factories "noticeably safer", CCC said.
"It is a disgrace that while 186 brands have signed this agreement, some laggards, most notably several brands which have first-hand experience with workers dying in their death trap factories, have failed to commit to protecting the safety of the workers in their supply chain," said Kamrul Hasan from Akota Garment Workers Federation in the statement.
German brands Tom Tailor, Deichmann, Swedish furniture and home textile giant IKEA and US online retailer Amazon are yet to sign the International Accord.
To make the brands sign on the dotted line, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and Femnet, supported by a range of Bangladeshi unions, have sent a letter warning them that if they failed to join the initiative they could face legal action under the German supply chain law that will take effect on January 1 next year, the statement said.
"While legal action should not be necessary for brands to take their workers' safety to heart, we hope that this will be the final push for major brands like Amazon and IKEA to sign the Accord, and make other laggards follow."
CCC, including its Bangladeshi partners and global allies, will continue to monitor if the Accord's Bangladesh operations keep these records up, by taking real action against non-compliant factories, being transparent about its operations, and continuing to ensure workers can speak out without fear of retaliation by management.
"After the tragic incidents of Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions fire, a lot has changed but unfortunately the state of the right to organise and collective bargaining has remained unchanged," said Amin Amirul Haque, president of the National Garment Workers Federation, in the statement.
To enforce labour laws in the apparel sector, workers and workers' organisations must be part of the inception, implementation process, and complaint and compliance mechanism, he said.
"The law will not be effective if it is only developed by EU bodies without involvement from civil society," Haque said, while citing the upcoming EU due diligence law as a case in point.
The global rights group went on to urge international brands and retailers to ensure that the pilot project of the Employment Injury Insurance (EII) scheme for garment workers, introduced this year by the government, is a success.
The EII scheme was introduced in association with employers, trade unions, the International Labour Organisation, Germany and the Netherlands.
For the pilot to be successful, it is "paramount" that international brands and retailers factor in the costs related to the injury insurance scheme in their contracts with suppliers and that the employers have registered all their workers.
CCC went on to hope that the pilot will lead to a fully-fledged insurance scheme for garment workers in Bangladesh.