Bangladesh Safety Accord Reaches 100 Brand Milestone

Standing at the site of the April 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, families hold pictures of their loved ones still to be traced. A group of survivors of the collapse say they are encouraged by news of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, a landmark agreement that aims to improve factory safety in the country’s garment sector.

More than 100 global brands have signed the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, a landmark agreement driven by global unions IndustriALL and UNI in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013.

The Accord, a binding agreement negotiated between Global Union Federations and retailers, is the only private-sector initiative that offers meaningful resolution to the catastrophes that continue to occur in Bangladesh’s garment industry. Since 2005, more than 1,800 workers have died from preventable factory fires and building collapses. Many of them were working at factories that made clothes for American merchants.

“This milestone comes as the world’s attention focuses once again on Bangladesh,” said IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina as IndustriALL and UNI prepare to mark the six-month anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy on October 24, 2013. “The strength of the Accord is growing and we, and all brand signatories, are committed to improving safety in Bangladesh’s factories.”

Woolworths Australia is the newest brand to sign the Accord. Other brands include Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters, H&M and Puma. Major companies like Wal-Mart and Gap refuse to take part.

The news came as a team from IndustriALL and UNI arrived in Bangladesh to prepare for the next phase of the implementation of the Accord, which now covers more than 1,600 factories and over 2 million workers. High-level talks involving unions, brands, government and employers will coincide with a week of action on safety and working conditions.

Various public demonstrations are also planned, including ones by families yet to find and identify the bodies of loved-ones lost at Rana Plaza, as well as by individuals and families seeking fair compensation settlements. Many of the survivors have suffered major injuries including lost limbs and are unable to work. Many of those killed were the sole money earners in their family. Compensation negotiations, chaired by the International Labour Organization, convened by IndustriALL and supported by UNI, continue on the international level.

The IndustriALL Global Union is a newly-formed union federation representing 50 million workers in 140 countries. IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger currently serves as one of three Vice Presidents.

For an updated list of brands that have signed on to the Bangladesh Safety Accord, click here.

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