Wednesday, November 21, 2018

High Court halts new Bangladesh accord on garment factory fire, building safety

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-10-16 00:47:22 BdST

This Aug 1 2017 file photo shows a procession of Jago Bangladesh Garments Shramic Federation against the 'closure of garment factories in the name of establishing safety by Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety'.

The High Court has halted the new accord between fashion brands and trade unions on fire and building safety in Bangladesh's readymade garment industry.

After hearing a writ petition filed by a leader of an organisation of garment workers and employees on Sunday, the bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice Mohammad Ullah froze the new agreement until May 15, 2018.

It also issued a rule asking the authorities why the decision to 'extend the agreement without permission from the government, owners and workers' would not be declared illegal.

Stichting Bangladesh Accord Foundation, the labour ministry and the chief inspector at the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments have been given four weeks to respond to the rule.

The new agreement, signed on June 21 this year, was scheduled to go into effect after the expiry of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh in May 2018.

The three-year agreement builds on the achievements of the first Bangladesh accord signed in May 2013 in response to the Rana Plaza building collapse that claimed the lives of more than 1,100 workers and injured 2,500 more.

Bangladesh's garment factory owners have objected to the new agreement. The government is supporting the owners.

On Wednesday, Bangladesh National Garments Workers Employees League President Lima Ferdous filed the writ petition challenging the new agreement.

Lawyers Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, Mohammad Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury, and Imtiaz Moinul Islam Neelim stood for the writ petitioner during the hearing.

Neelim told "It's a one-sided agreement because the accord did not take permission from the government, owners and workers before signing it."

The agreement has so far been signed by Kmart Australia, Target Australia, Primark, H&M, Inditex, C&A, Otto, KiK, Aldi South, Aldi North, Lidl, Tchibo, LC Waikiki and Helly Hansen.

A further eight brands, nnamely Esprit, Hüren, Bestseller, Wibra, Schmidt Group, N Brown Group, PVH and Specialty Fashion Group Australia have committed to signing it.

The accord expanded worker protections, aiming to ensure that factories give severance pay to employees when they shut or relocate for safety reasons.

The new agreement put greater emphasis on the right of workers to organise and join a union, linking worker empowerment to workplace safety for the first time.