NGO Signatories to Bangladesh Accord Welcome New Binding Worker Safety Agreement

Labor rights groups say “every brand that values workers’ lives” will sign the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry

Today, apparel brands and labor unions announced agreement on a new International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, thereby preserving, extending, and expanding the model pioneered by the Bangladesh Accord for protecting worker safety. The nongovernmental organization signatories (known as witness signatories) to the Bangladesh Accord—Clean Clothes Campaign, Worker Rights Consortium, Maquila Solidarity Network, and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum—issued the following statement:

We welcome, and look forward to signing, this new international safety agreement, which maintains the vital elements of the ground-breaking model established by the Bangladesh Accord: legal enforceability of brands’ commitments, independent oversight of brand compliance, the obligation to pay prices to suppliers sufficient to support safe workplaces, and the obligation to cease doing business with any factory that refuses to operate safely. The successful outcome of negotiations this summer will ensure that the sweeping safety gains the Accord has delivered in Bangladesh will be maintained and extended.

This model, which has saved countless lives in Bangladesh, will also now be expanded to other countries where workers’ lives remain daily at risk. Eight years since the inception of the original Accord, the new International Accord takes the important and overdue step to expand its coverage beyond Bangladesh. It is vital that this process will be taken on swiftly and unreservedly for the benefit of textile and garment workers who have called for better safety measures for many years.

Under the new agreement, the continuation of the progress on fire and building safety achieved in Bangladesh over the past eight years, and the expansion of the program beyond Bangladesh, will be ensured through the work of the Accord Secretariat, a fully independent oversight body with the authority to verify and enforce brand compliance. Importantly, only brands that are willing to sign the new enforceable agreement will be able to avail themselves of inspections and other services from the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) in Bangladesh, ensuring a level playing field without a double standard for brand accountability.

Every responsible apparel and textile brand—every brand that places any value on the lives of the workers who sew its clothes—will sign this new agreement. It is especially important that brands and retailers that failed to sign the original Accord sign this one. These brands have consciously chosen to risk the lives of the workers in their contract factories; their recklessness must now end.

We congratulate the hundreds of trade unions, civil society organizations, parliamentarians, and governments around the world that have advocated this year for the continuation of the Accord. Their efforts were instrumental in getting this good outcome. We must now turn our attention to ensuring that every brand that sources clothing from high-risk countries, in South Asia and beyond, signs the new International Safety Accord.

Ineke Zeldenrust, International Coordinator at Clean Clothes Campaign, said: “This agreement will begin the long-awaited expansion of this model that holds brands legally accountable to other countries where workers’ lives continue to be at risk. In many of these countries, unions and labor rights organizations have been asking for effective action in the field of workplace safety for years. We are happy this agreement will now become truly international and look forward to it being expanded soon to the countries where the need is highest and the demand is greatest.”

Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium said: “Garment workers in Bangladesh used to die in the dozens and hundreds making t-shirts and sweaters for the world’s leading apparel brands. The Accord put an end to that horror. Provided enough brands sign, this new agreement will ensure it never returns.”

Co-authors: Clean Clothes Campaign, Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum, Maquila Solidarity Network, Worker Rights Consortium