Protect progress

In the almost six years since the Rana Plaza collapse, the Bangladesh Accord has brought great progress to the safety situation of garment factories in Bangladesh. Clean Clothes Campaign believes that it is vital for the safety of workers that the Accord can continue as it used to in Bangladesh. We urge the government of Bangladesh to support the Bangladesh Accord's appeal against the restraining order. This is happening in the wake of the worst repression in a decade against workers who protested for higher wages. Workers in Bangladesh deserve safe factories, living wages and freedom from repression #FreedomSafetyLivingWage.

What can you do?

I have one minute

  • Call upon the government of Bangladesh to support the unrestricted continuation of the Accord's work. Sign the petition here.  
  • Share, retweet or repost one of our campaign posts about the Bangladesh Accord on social media (facebook, twitter, linkedIn, instagram).

I have five minutes

  • Tell factory owners in Bangladesh that you want them to support the work of the Accord by leaving a message on their facebook page or sending them a message on twitter. Tell them why you want the work of the Accord to continue. For example:

@bgmeainfo If the Accord has to leave the country no one benefits: not factory owners, not brands and least of all workers. Keep your factories safe. Let the Accord finish its job and give national inspection bodies time to build up capacity. #RanaPlazaNeverAgain #ProtectProgress

  • Call upon your friends to sign the petition and write to the factory owners by spreading your own message on social media. Please use the hashtags #RanaPlazaNeverAgain and #ProtectProgress

I want to do more

  • Go through your closet and find a garment made in Bangladesh. Take a picture of the label and post it with a message showing your solidarity. For example:

I stand with the workers in #Bangladesh that stitched my clothes. They have a right to living wages, safe factories and freedom from repression. Join me by signing here: #FreedomSafetyLivingWage #RanaPlazaNeverAgain #ProtectProgress

  • Make your own sign showing your support for garment workers in Bangladesh and post it on social media using the hashtags: #RanaPlazaNeverAgain #ProtectProgress #FreedomSafetyLivingWage


Readiness of national inspection bodies

Several fires in the last few weeks have unfortunately shown that, contrary to what the government and factory owners say, national inspection agencies are not yet ready to take over the work of the Accord. They showed cases of broken promises, unsafe buildings, and factories deemed too dangerous to produce in that continued to operate. Furthermore a closer look at the public data of the national inspection bodies themselves showed many inconsistencies and dangerous lapses.

Broad support

Many worker representatives, brands and other stakeholders have spoken out in support of continued operation of the Accord from Bangladesh. Brands share their concern that their factories might become unsafe again if the Accord would be pushed out of Bangladesh on this brand support page. We have an overview of more support statements here or scroll down for more. Also read the statement by all labour signatories to the Accord and see  the great show of solidarity with garment workers in Bangladesh during our week of solidarity in January 2019!

Frequently asked questions

What is the Bangladesh Accord?

When in April 2013 the Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing at least 1,134 garment workers, this was the final incentive to start addressing the notoriously unsafe situation of many garment factories in Bangladesh. Within a few weeks, the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety was established and started inspecting factories and monitoring repairs and improvements. It was much more successful than earlier attempts to improve the safety of factories in Bangladesh because it welcomed workers’ participation and was legally binding for all brands that signed on. After the initial five years that the Accord was established for a large majority of the safety issues detected were solved, but because the work was not yet done. Therefore the brands and trade unions created a Transition Accord, which would work for another three years to give the government of Bangladesh time to build up its own institutions to carry out the inspection work. Over 190 international brands are members of this programme.

Why might its Bangladesh office be forced to close?

Before the Transition Accord was due to start in June 2018, the Bangladesh High Court put a restraining order on the Accord’s inspection programme. This meant that the Accord would have to leave the country after 30 May 2018. At the request of the Bangladesh government, the High Court postponed the date to 30 November and declared that the domestic inspection agency - the Remediation and Coordination Cell - would need to be ready at that same time to take over. The Accord office has filed an appeal to lift the restraining order. The Supreme Court decision on this appeal was postponed multiple times since 30 November. On 19 May a memorandum of understanding between the Steering Committee of the Accord and the employers' organization BGMEA was accepted by the Court.

Photo: Kristof Vadino

Would a negative decision mean that the Bangladesh Accord must stop its work?

No, the Bangladesh Accord has a headquarters in Amsterdam and will be able to continue work from there. The brands that signed the Accord are still legally bound to the contract they signed with the Global Union Federations. The contract stipulates that brands cannot withdraw from the contract unless they fulfilled all their obligations. It will however be more difficult to inspect and monitor factories if the inspection programme is not in Bangladesh itself and inspectors might have to come from abroad. The Accord will not be able to inspect as often and thoroughly as it used to. As it is unacceptable to suggest factories are safe while they cannot be checked properly, the Accord will have no choice but to be more strict towards factories. This means that factories that are now on notice for not carrying out their life-saving renovations fast enough will after a closing of the Accord’s Bangladesh office be categorized as unsafe to produce in, which, according to media reports, means that in the next two months more than 500 factories will be judged unfit for Accord brands to buy from.

What can brands do to prevent this?

Brands have a lot of power in Bangladesh. Around 80% of the country’s export revenue comes from the garment industry. Among the Accord members there are some of the biggest garment brands in the world and the largest buyers from Bangladesh. If these brands let their Bangladeshi suppliers and the government of Bangladesh know that they can only produce in factories that they know are safe and that at this moment the Accord is the only institution that has the capacity to carry out a credible safety programme, their voices are must have effect. Brands should therefore make their orders contractually conditional on the continuation of effective monitoring by the Accord. The Accord has filed an appeal against the restraining order. International labour organizations and trade union federations are requesting the government of Bangladesh to support this appeal.

How will the Transition Accord hand over its tasks to a national regulatory body?

The signatories to the Transition Accord are committed to hand over the inspection and remediation work of the Accord to a credible and demonstrably functioning national regulatory body. The ILO oversees the indicators for the functioning of such a body and can assess whether the readiness criteria have been reached. These indicators include full transparency, proven inspection capacity and fully operational enforcement mechanisms. For other work of the Transition Accord, notably the complaints and safety training functions, a transition plan has been developed and presented to the government. 

Are the government of Bangladesh and its national inspectorates currently ready to take over the inspection work?

No. You can read more in our report and summary on the readiness of the government of Bangladesh's national inspection agencies. Furthermore, we are not the only ones saying this: A September 2018 report by the Bangladesh Compact – a cooperation between Bangladesh, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Bangladesh and the International Labour Organization in order to improve conditions in the garment industrydraws a range of conclusions on the national institutions now in charge of inspecting factories in Bangladesh: Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) and the Remediation and Coordination Cell (RCC).

This includes:

  • The observation that DIFE has insufficiently followed up on its commitment to make its inspection and remediation process transparent and reports publicly available. While it has published inspection reports, the information regarding remediation is outdated and incomplete (p. 22).

  • The observation that the RCC has worked on an escalation protocol to take effect if factories do not cooperate to inspection or remediation, but that this protocol has not yet been enforced (p. 26). Newpaper articles also have raised doubts about the political will in the Bangladesh government and its inspection institutions to fully enforce remediation measures.

  • The observation that of the 300 Corrective Action Plans that DIFE received on the basis of the initial inspections almost all contained mistakes and only five were approved. Despite the absence of credible Corrective Action Plans, DIFE nevertheless reports a remediation percentage of 29% (against a remediation rate of 89% for the Accord). Whether this is based on approved or credible action plans cannot be checked because the DIFE public database is not up to date (p. 29).

Transparency and enforcement are two of the indicators according to which the ILO keeps track of the DIFE/RCC readiness to take over inspection work from the Accord.

A range of fires in February and March 2019 have further raised doubts about the ability of the government of Bangladesh to take over the Accord’s task and have led to calls among Bangladeshi building and safety specialists to rather expand the Accord to other areas.

How was this restraining order put in place?

One of the Bangladeshi factory owners who failed to properly inform the Accord and carry through the renovations needed to make his factory safe sued the Accord for being removed from the list of factories that Accord brands are allowed to source from. In an extraordinary unilateral action, the Bangladesh High Court used this court case to issue a Suo Moto restraining order against Accord office operations in Bangladesh, effective May 31, 2018. The restraining order was later modified and temporarily lifted, based on a submission to the High Court by the Government of Bangladesh that the Accord be allowed to operate until 30 November 2018. The order was postponed with the hearing six times since. 

Supporting the Accord - labour leaders (Find an overview here)

Babul Akhter, Bangladesh Garment & Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF), Accord signatory, October 2018

“The Accord is very important for workplace safety. The Accord works independently and neutrally and has earned a good reputation and credibility, abroad and among workers. The Accord ensures the safety of the workplace for workers. The garment industry is free of accidents due to the Accord. The Accord protects our industry's image and makes it more sustainable. Its contribution is unparalleled and its requirements are very important for worker safety.”

Amin Amirul Haque, National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), Accord signatory, October 2018

“The Rana Plaza collapse and previously other factory tragedies created consumer concerns about the safety of workers in the Bangladesh Ready Made Garment sector. Without the Accord, with its credible independent inspection programs, the Bangladesh garment industry would have lost the confidence needed to export garments to international markets. Following the commencement of the Accord inspection of factories, the Bangladesh RMG sector benefited from a growth in export. The Accord inspection programs are ongoing and have not yet completed their purpose, and the RCC is not ready for a complete take over of the Accord inspection program. It is important both for the safety of workers and the benefit of the industry that the Accord is allowed to continue to function to ensure the factories are safe to work in. Otherwise consumers and buyers in the international market will again loose confidence in the garments produced in Bangladesh.”

Kalpona Akter, Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, October 2018

“We need the Accord to continue to work. It has made enormous change and made our workers’ lives safer. Now workers have right to say NO to dangerous work. If the Accord would have to leave the country it would mean putting workers lives in danger again and we should not take this risk.”

Shalauddin Shapon, BRGWF, October 2018

 "The Accord has been working on making factories safe in Bangladesh in a fair and impartial way. Every inspection is carried out by skilled engineers and gradually the Accord is able to make factories 100% safe. In fact, the Accord is forming OSH committees in factories according to the labour law and supervising it. This is not possible for the government or any other organization at the moment."

Supporting the Accord - Investors

Bangladesh Investor Initiative, a group of 250 institutional investors from 12 countries, 29 August 2018

“The success of the Accord model relies on the unprecedented collective action of trade unions, brands and their supplier factories and the International Labor Organization: this model, proven to be effective, is needed to finish the job and not allow the hard-earned gains to slip away. As shareholders in a number of the companies sourcing product in the garment sector, the undersigned investors are concerned that the precipitous termination of the Accord would be too costly for worker health and safety and to brands and their investors that depend upon a secure, safe workforce.  We therefore urge the government of Bangladesh to make a re-submission to the High Court to enable the Accord to operate until such time as a national safety regulatory body is established and fully prepared to assume control of the Accord’s mandate.” [original]

Supporting the Accord - garment brands

H&M, 25 June 2018

"We want to complete the remediation [at our factories] because we recognise there is no adequate structure in place to regulate safety in Bangladesh. Brands and their consumers cannot forget about Rana Plaza and we strongly believe in the workers' rights to have a safe workplace and to refuse unsafe work. The Accord has delivered on this - a robust, high quality, transparent, inclusive system - and has made well-recognised progress. [...] We stand ready to support the RCC work and national governance that we agreed to. We sincerely hope that the RCC will be able to deliver the same result as the Accord  - a robust [program], of good quality, transparent for external stakeholders, and inclusive for international trade unions. A premature shutdown of the Accord may lead brands and retailers to consider sourcing decisions and review their reputational risk for [working with] Bangladesh as a sourcing country." [original]

LC Waikiki, 25 June 2018

“We request as a Steering Committee of the Accord, but also particularly as brands of the Accord – the buyers – that the EU, the US, Canada and the ILO demand that the Government make a resubmission to the High Court in the Suo Moto case explicitly expressing its support for the previously agreed Transition Monitoring Committee arrangements which are as follows: between May and November 2018 the Transition Monitoring Committee will assess the readiness of the RCC against the already agreed criteria and if in November it is decided that the RCC are ready to take over, there would be a six months handover period during which the Accord will help and support the RCC in setting up its operations; if the answer is that the RCC are not ready to take over, then the assessment would continue for another six months before another decision is made.” [original]

KiK, 26 November 2018

The considerations of the government of Bangladesh to send the Bangladesh Accord out of the country disappoint us very much. The work of the Accord has been immensely successful and the progress should not lose speed” [original]

Varner Group (Cubus, Dressman, BikBok), November 2018

"Varner Group has actively supported that the work of the Accord should be continued beyond November 2018. We have sent letters to the top management and owners of all our suppliers in Bangladesh pushing our support for the continuation of the Accord. Varner Group also took part in a delegation of brands, unions, labour rights organizations and Accord staff who met with the ILO, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, government officials and the BGMEA to emphasize the importance of the continuation of the Accord operations in Bangladesh. In addition, together with other brands Varner Group recently approached the Bangladesh government voicing its concerns and support for the Accord in its current form.”

Esprit, October 2018

Rather than making the work easier [the closure of the Accord’s Bangladesh office] would make our jobs more difficult (…) Activism in key market countries could make the Bangladesh brand toxic to consumers in spite of the tremendous improvements that we have achieved in recent years.” [original]

Tchibo, 28 November 2018

The Bangladesh Accord is one of the greatest achievements in the efforts to achieve better working conditions in producing countries. (…) We are proud of what we have achieved, even if it is only one building block in the sum of all that still need to be changed. We are therefore all the more dismayed that the institutions in Bangladesh are pushing ahead with an early termination of the Accord without a transparent, independent and viable transition structure being in place. (…) Nevertheless, a forced pull-out of the Accord will significantly reduce our confidence and trust in the country, and it cannot be ruled out that we will also have to consider business consequences if the Accord’s requirements do not continue to be implemented.[original]