• Saturday, Jul 02, 2022
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New Accord agreement: Workers' unions rejoice, apparel makers cautious

  • Published at 09:14 pm August 28th, 2021
RMG worker

A number of manufacturers feel that since RSC exists, there is no need for an Accord here

The agreement to form a new Accord has elicited mixed reactions among workers’ unions, organizations related to workers’ rights, and the manufacturers of the country's apparel industry.

According to most of the unions and its supportive organizations, the signing of the new Accord will ensure the health and safety of workers and they welcomed the initiative of the brands.

They also believed that with the signing of the new Accord, the intervention of a third party in the workers’ safety related cases will be abolished and it will be executed as per the policies of the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC).

However, a number of manufacturers feel that since RSC exists, there is no need for an Accord here.

Most of them declined to comment on this matter as they will meet soon regarding this and did want to make any comment before the meeting.

Major global retailers agreed on a two-year pact with garment workers and factory owners in Bangladesh, extending a pre-existing agreement that makes retailers liable to legal action unless their factories meet labour safety standards.

Also Read - Retailers agree to extend Bangladeshi garment workers' safety pact

Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Kalpona Akter, executive director of Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity (BCWS), a grassroots workers’ rights organization, said that they are very pleased with the announcement of the signing of the new Accord.

“We are also campaigning for its speedy implementation. This time the Accord is being signed internationally; it will be signed in all the countries that have garment factories. It is a positive sign,” she added.

She also said that all brands have signed the Accord, which will control the activities of the RSC.

"Accord has worked for the safety of our country's workers for 8 years," she also said.

“There has been a beautiful change in the proposed Accord. Now there will be no opportunity for third party interference in any complaint. It used to be seen that the owner or the brand used to intervene, now there will be no such opportunity,” said Kalpona Akter.

International Accord is no longer a small project, based on Bangladesh just looking at fire and building safety. It is now a big project like looking at health and all other safety measures, she added.

“Accord has brought credibility to Bangladesh's garment sector around the world. Buyers now have the confidence to source from Bangladesh without any hesitation. So, there is no choice but to welcome it,” she added.

But manufacturers seemed still unconvinced about the signing of the new Accord. They don’t see the necessity of signing any Accord where the RSC already existed.

Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of the BGMEA, said that so far, they are accountable only to the RSC and the RSC is under the control of the brands, the Ministry of Commerce and the government.

“Since the RSC has been operating here for close to three years now, there is no need for the signing of a new Accord. The RSC is a tripartite project of the brands, trade unions and manufacturers,” he added.

He also said that everything will not happen as per the demands of the brands.

“They don’t raise the price of the product, rather try to lower the price in various ways. Now it will not matter if you put pressure. However, they have made such an agreement without discussing it with us,” he added.

Salauddin Swapan, acting president of the IndutriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), said that the trade unions and their supportive activist organizations have always wanted the Accord to be established again.

Having an international body along with the RSC is better for the workers, he also said.

“Nothing really works without an international binding. Although the RSC is a three-party project, the influence of the manufacturers is very high here, so in many cases the welfare of the workers is not adequately possible,” he added.

Although there is an obligation to adhere to the principle of neutrality, this is not always possible, he added.

A vice-president of the BKMEA refrained from commenting without holding an internal meeting first.

The original agreement, known as the Bangladesh Accord, was due to expire on August 31.

The new version comes into force on September 1 and is named the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry to reflect its wider reach.

Under a transition deal agreed in 2018 after the original accord expired, a newly-formed body, the Ready-Made Garments Sustainability Council (RSC), which brings together unions, brands, and factory owners, took over the work of running factory inspections.

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