By Dr Patrick I. Gomes, ACP Secretary-General

Following are extensive excerpts from the opening remarks by the Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) at the breakfast event – 'Unlocking the potential of the blue economy for the Sustainable Development of SIDS' – on June 6 in the margins of the Oceans Conference at the UN headquarters in New York. – The Editor

NEW YORK (IDN-INPS) – There is reason to believe that the year 2017 promises to be an important year for the oceans. With the inclusion of a stand-alone goal for oceans, Sustainable Development Goal 14, we see new impetus at the international efforts to address the current opportunities and challenges that the oceans present.

- Photo: 2021

New Accord Set To Improve Workers’ Health and Safety In Bangladesh Garment Factories

This article is transmitted under a new partnership between IDN-InDepthNews and Uni Apro, a Regional Organisation of Services workers in Asia Pacific, part of UNI@uniglobalunion.

By Kim Lui

SINGAPORE (IDN) — Representatives from international textile retailers have reached a new, 26-month agreement with UNI Global Union and IndustriALL that builds on the progress made by the ground-breaking Bangladesh Accord while promising to expand the scope of the Accord’s legally binding commitments.

The last Bangladesh Accord was adopted in May 2018 and it is an independent, legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions to work towards a safe and healthy garment and textile industry in Bangladesh. The Accord covers factories producing Ready-Made Garments (RMG) and at the option of signatory companies, those producing home textiles and fabric and knit accessories.

The infamous Rana Plaza factory building fire and collapse on April 24, 2013, killed 1,133 people and critically injured thousands more. In the years prior to the Rana Plaza building collapse, numerous fatal factory fires occurred in Bangladesh. The Accord was created to enable a working environment in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses, or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures.

The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, which takes effect on 1 September 2021, advances the fundamental elements that made the first Accord successful—including legally binding commitments, respect for freedom of association, and independent administration and monitoring.

Key features of the International Accord include a commitment to continue the health and safety program in Bangladesh through the independent RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) and an agreement to expand the Accord into new countries. There is also an option to grow the Accord’s scope to address human rights due diligence, and an optional streamlined arbitration process to enforce the Accord’s terms.

“This new agreement is further proof that the Accord model works,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “With its accountability, transparency, and legally binding commitments, the International Accord is an example of what modern due diligence should look like in Bangladesh and beyond. It also recognizes that the work in Bangladesh’s garment industry is not done, and this agreement helps strengthen the RSC and deepen brands’ commitments to the people who manufacture their products.”

Like its predecessor agreement, this is a legally binding agreement between companies and trade unions to make Ready-Made Garment (RMG) and textile factories safe. In Bangladesh, the agreement is implemented by the independent national tri-partite RMG Sustainability Council consisting of brands, unions and industry.

The agreement comes after months of intense negotiations, including a three-month extension in May. The original Bangladesh Accord was signed by apparel brands and global union federations three weeks after the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013.

It established an on-the-ground organization that conducted independent safety inspections, transparent remediation protocols, as well a worker complaint mechanism and training. Roughly 200 global brands signed it, and the 2018 agreement covers more than 1,600 factories and two million workers

It is following significant pressure from worker unions and campaigners, that the new strengthened agreement has been negotiated and will now come into effect on September 1.

According to Vague magazine H&M and Zara are among the major high street players who are committing to protect garment workers in Bangladesh as part of the new legally-binding agreement.

The workers’ rights campaigners have welcomed the new Accord. “This is a binding contract between brands and unions that can be upheld in the court of law in case brands do not meet their obligations,” Christie Miedema, campaign and outreach coordinator at the Clean Clothes Campaign told Vogue. “[That] makes all the difference.”

The UNI Global, and IndustriALL in a statement said that they encourage all garment and textile companies to sign this agreement and join their collective goal of safe and sustainable RMG and related industries.

The first wave of signatories to the International Accord will be announced 1 September. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 August 2021]

Photo: New, expanded worker safety pact will build on Bangladesh Accord’s success. Source: UNI Global Union

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