Global unions to withdraw from unenforceable garment factory safety scheme in Bangladesh
Citing brands’ refusal to sign new binding agreement, global unions to end participation in the RMG Sustainability Council on 1 June
UNI Global Union and IndustriALL Global Union, the labour signatories of the Bangladesh Accord, have today given notice to withdraw from the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) in Bangladesh on 1 June.
The withdrawal means that IndustriALL, UNI and local unions in Bangladesh will no longer be part of the RSC and its Board of Directors—stripping away any credibility of the RSC as an effective worker safety organization.
The RSC was created by the Accord through negotiations with the Bangladeshi garment industry in order to include factory owners as stakeholders, with the understanding of a new legally-binding agreement between unions and brands to succeed the Accord.
The global unions cannot accept replacing the extremely effective Accord model with an alternative proposal from brands derived from the failed approaches of the decades prior to the Rana Plaza industrial homicide.
In recent months, global apparel brands have insisted upon a new framework for the future which discards the key elements that have led to the Accord’s success in making garment factories in Bangladesh safe for workers - for example individual brand accountability and independent monitoring of brands.
The brands’ empty promises to renew the Accord and derogatory counter proposals have led to a critical point in Bangladesh garment factory safety and risk the lives of millions of garment workers in Bangladesh.
UNI Global Union General Secretary Christy Hoffman said:
“Instead of bargaining over the next phase of our joint safety work in Bangladesh, the brands have pursued an ‘Accord Exit’ strategy designed to write away any meaningful role for unions in the future. We can’t be a rubber stamp for an industry-brand partnership without real accountability and robust oversight. This is a time when we should be moving forward and building on progress, not going in reverse.”
IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Valter Sanches said:
“The Accord and the independent secretariat empowered to report on brand performance, and more recently through the cooperation agreement with the RSC, have successfully prevented the loss of lives during the last eight years. The brands’ proposal of self-monitoring is a dangerous step backwards and undermines the credibility of the programme. It will have immediate consequences for the safety of millions of workers in the brands’ supply chains.”
The Accord model has been widely cited as unparalleled in its success and in its consistency with UN Guiding Principles, OECD guidelines, and the tenets of credible supply chain responsibility and business and human rights obligations.
Since 2013, the Accord has inspected and monitored reparations in 2,000 factories and trained over two million workers in health and safety. But over 1,200 factories are yet to have all measures implemented and verified to standard.
The RSC was created through an agreement between the Accord and the Bangladeshi garment industry through which the RSC agreed to assume all Accord staff, operations, and protocols with the new entity being governed by Accord brands, unions and the industry. However, once the Accord expires at the end of May, the RSC will lack a robust enforcement mechanism to ensure that brands meet their obligations and factories make reparations.
UNI and IndustriALL are willing to re-consider their decision to cease their participation in the RSC if brands sign a new agreement that continues the principles and obligations of the Accord and expands the principles and commitments to other countries.