Failure of follow-up agreement poses risks for RMG brands

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Clothing brands will face considerable liability risks if they fail to negotiate and sign a follow-up to the Bangladesh Accord safety program that expires in the next two weeks, according to the latest analysis.

The legal brief from Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and the Consortium for Workers’ Rights explored the legal liability of clothing brands under existing and upcoming legislation on the chain of procurement in relation to the possible expiration of the Bangladesh Accord.

According to the analysis, some 91 factories supply Aldi North, and only 15 factories have installed fire alarms and sprinklers in accordance with the Accord’s corrective action plan. The remaining 76 factories still do not have one or both of the features.

Auchan, which right-wing groups say is not transparent about its supply chain, sources its supplies from 40 Bangladeshi supplier factories.

And only 10 factories have fire alarms and sprinklers while the rest have yet to install one or both features.

Out of 63 factories of Carrefour origin, 42 do not have a fire alarm and 43 do not have an automatic sprinkler system.

According to the results, in only 14 factories, all fire alarms and sprinklers were properly installed.

Citing data from the Accord, a CCC statement said that despite resolving tens of thousands of identified safety risks, hundreds of factories in Bangladesh still lack basics such as fire alarms and verified sprinklers. .

If the Agreement expires, these factories represent a major risk to worker safety and a liability risk for Carrefour, said Carolijn Terwindt of CCC.

Accord statistics show that 23% of issues awaiting verification are found not to be up to standard, this analysis only considers an issue fully resolved once the verification has confirmed it.

“Without a new agreement signed by clothing brands and retailers, the Bangladesh Accord will cease to exist,” CCC said in a statement.

The Accord deal, initially signed in 2013 after the Rana Plaza building collapsed that killed more than 1,100 workers and injured many more, revolutionized factory safety inspections in Bangladesh.

Thanks to its binding nature, transparent reporting and robust grievance mechanism, the Accord now has a well-established track record of saving workers’ lives by dramatically reducing deadly building collapses and factory fires, a- he added.

Already in January 2020, the brands and unions that govern the Accord agreed to negotiate a binding follow-up agreement with the possibility of expanding the program to other countries, to ensure that important safety work remains binding afterwards. the expiration of the current contract.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, negotiations started late and dragged beyond the original deadline of May 31, 2021.

“Despite their statements being concerned about the safety of workers, brands such as H&M, Aldi Nord, Otto, Auchan and Carrefour have not signed an agreement,” the statement added.

“Failure to do so is contrary to their human rights due diligence obligations, both under the French law on the duty of vigilance of companies or the law of vigilance as well as the future German law on due diligence obligations of companies in supply chains or Lieferkettengesetz, ”he added.

“Companies that leave the Agreement risk legal action under French and German law. Under these new laws, a company will be liable if workers in its supply chain are injured in a factory fire or building collapse and the brand has failed to meet its obligations. duty of care. “

On its own, the Bangladesh Ready-to-Wear Sustainability Council (RSC) mechanism is inadequate to meet business human rights due diligence obligations.

The RSC was created to take over the Accord’s field inspection operations in Bangladesh, but cannot hold brands accountable.

Unless brands legally commit to continuing to support the work of the Accord – including both the obligation for factories to operate safely and the financial opportunity for them to do so – the lives of Garment workers in Bangladesh will be at risk, Ben Hensler of the Worker Rights Consortium said.

“Under human rights due diligence laws, there is a risk that if brands refuse to renew the Agreement, they also ignore it at their peril,” Ben added. Hensler.

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