Since Rana Plaza...
Bryony Moore interviews Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of the international trade union IndustriALL, to find out what has been happening in the wake of the most deadly industrial accident since Bhopal.
According to IndustriALL's Jyrki Raina, “In the twelve months since Rana Plaza, no doubt the biggest achievement has been the Accord"
The Accord is a legally-binding contract whose signatories agree to establish a fire and building safety program in Bangladesh for a period of five years. It's an agreement between international trade unions IndustriALL and UNI Global, Bangladeshi trade unions, and international brands and retailers. The program includes factory inspections, and signatories are responsible for ensuring sufficient funds are available to pay for all necessary structural repairs or renovations.
"There’s no doubt, it’s a game changer. Never before has such an agreement been signed, with co-operation between so many different stakeholders, with such stringent enforceability.” Says Raina.
“The three main initiatives seeking to improve factory conditions are the Accord, the National Action Plan and the Alliance. All are working together so that audits use the same criteria, and NAP has agreed to audit all the factories which fall outside the remit of the Accord and Alliance, so that all factories are covered. So collaboration is being seen as key to the solutions.”
National Action Plan (NAP) has been signed by the Bangladesh Government, employers and labour unions. It's an integrated national action plan on fire safety and structural integrity in the clothing sector. After the Rana Plaza collapse, the ILO undertook a high-level mission to Bangladesh, which led to further development of the NAP. The NAP aims to bring together local stakeholders to deliver actions which aim to prevent any future tragedies such as Rana Plaza and the Tazreen factory fire. The NAP also includes a review of existing policies and will oversee the adoption of new legislation, in the areas of trade union rights, occupational health and safety, and fire and building safety.
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety is an initiative of Walmart, Gap and other US retailers and is much less stringent than NAP and the Accord. It is not legally binding, and only offers a set pot of cash for improvements to factories that need it – unlike the Accord (signed mainly by European companies), which makes it legally binding for brands and retailers to secure funding to cover the whole cost of getting supplier factories up to scratch, whatever that may be.
Asked if they are happy with the progress of the Accord to date Raina said: “It took time to get the Accord operational, but now it is. We have reports from the first factory audits publicly available online, including photographs of the factories. The next step is to begin auditing the other factories in blocks of 200, with the first block currently being well underway.”
A leap forward has been made in transparency too: “Though a seemingly small detail, an important breakthrough has been in brands disclosing their suppliers. Previously, suppliers were regarded as a closely guarded trade secret. Now it’s a requirement of the Accord to disclose all suppliers in Bangladesh, meaning it’s much harder to hide any problems,” said Raina.
They think that perhaps the most exciting thing is that this historic Accord and the compensation arrangement can act as a blueprint for other countries. “It took six years for the victims of the Spectrum disaster (another Bangladeshi clothing factory collapse in 2005 which killed 64 workers and injured another 80) to receive their compensation. We can’t let that happen again. These agreements offer a solution.”
So there are lots of reasons to be cheerful, but let’s not sit back and relax just yet as there’s plenty more to be done. Find out what you can do.
2 Inspections highlight safety risks at Bangladesh factories, 10 March 2014, Reuters www.reuters.com
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