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Jana Bukolovska

Opinion

7th July 2017, Bangladesh

Need to expand Bangladesh Accord

A legal notice has sought the arrest of the owner and top managers of Multifabs, a circular knitting and knitted garments manufacturer, after a tragic boiler explosion killed several people in its Gazipur garment factory this week. The news comes days after a number of fashion brands signed a new Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, after meeting in Amsterdam last week.

“This heart-breaking loss of life is the latest example why safety improvements in Bangladesh’s garment industry are literally a matter of life and death. The Bangladesh Accord has made significant progress in making work safer in this sector, but this explosion shows the need to expand the agreement’s scope to include boiler safety,” said Christy Hoffman, Deputy General Secretary of UNI.

On 24 April 2013 in the Balngladeshi district of Dhaka, 1,133 people were killed and approximately 2,500 were injured.

The Multifabs factory is covered under the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and has been inspected by Accord engineers. The facility installed fire separation of the boiler room and other fire and structural safety renovations. However, the Accord does not cover boiler inspections, which are monitored by the Bangladesh government.

Need for the work to continue

In light of the explosion, UNI Global Union extends its deepest sympathies to all those affected by the tragedy and along with IndustriALL Global Union is demanding that the Accord be expanded to include boiler safety. “There is still an enormous amount to be done to improve safety in the Bangaldeshi garment industry. This latest tragedy underlines the need for the work by the Bangladesh Accord to continue, and union signatories to the Accord will demand that it be expanded to include boiler safety as soon as possible,” says IndustriALL Global Union.

Integrated vertically and horizontally, Multifabs is a 100% export oriented one-stop manufacturer and exporter of all sorts of knitted apparel. The firm supplies knitted apparel to clients in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Russia, Spain, Netherlands and Britain, including to Littlewoods, one of Britain's oldest retail brands. Multifabs started operating in 1992, and reached US$ 70 million in exports in 2016, supplying European brands such as fashion chain Lindex, which is part of Finnish retailer Stockmann and Aldi. The company said the plant was functioning well and the boiler had just been serviced.

Bangladesh's garment sector came under scrutiny after the Rana Plaza tragedy of 2013.

“The Accord will continue to monitor the condition and medical treatment of the injured workers. The Accord encourages all brands producing at Multifabs, as well as the factory owner, to ensure that full and fair compensation is paid to the families of the workers who died and to the injured workers, consistent with the standard established by the Rana Plaza Arrangement,” the Accord’s statement said.

New Accord

Bangladesh's garment sector came under scrutiny after the Rana Plaza tragedy of 2013. On 24 April 2013 in the Balngladeshi district of Dhaka, 1,133 people were killed and approximately 2,500 were injured following what is considered the worst garment-factory accident in history, when an eight-story commercial building named Rana Plaza, collapsed. The tragic accident sparked discussions about corporate social responsibility across the global supply chains. Many consumers spoke out against unsafe working conditions found in the factory building.

After the incident, the Accord has completed fire and building safety inspections at 1,800 garment factories supplying more than 200 signatory brands. Accord engineers have identified over 118,000 fire, electrical and structural hazards at these factories. Today, 79% of workplace dangers discovered in the Accord’s original round of inspections have been remediated.

On 29 June, a new 2018 Accord was launched extending the safety programme until 2021. The agreement has so far been signed by Kmart Australia, Target Australia, Primark, H&M, Inditex (Zara), C&A, Otto, KiK, Aldi South, Aldi North, Lidl, Tchibo, LC Waikiki and Helly Hansen. A further eight brands: Esprit, Hüren, Bestseller, Wibra, Schmidt Group, N Brown Group, PVH, Specialty Fashion Group Australia have committed to signing. It means that over a thousand Bangladeshi garment factories supplying signatory brands will be covered under the new Accord.

Signatory brands of the current Accord met last week in Amsterdam to consider the new agreement. IndustriALL and UNI are signatories to the new Accord, while four non-governmental organisations including the Clean Clothes Campaign and the Worker Rights Consortium were witness signatories. See more here – Fashion brands sign new Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

Clothing industry in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the biggest producers of clothes in the world. Its Ready Made Garments (RMG) sector mainly comprises of knit garments, followed by woven products, according to BKMEA, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association. The country’s export-oriented knitwear industry is the leading exporting sector in Bangladesh.

Despite the notoriety of labour conditions in the RMG sector in Bangladesh, the country’s knitwear sector plays a significant role in employment generation, women empowerment, poverty reduction, as well as in health and nutrition improvement, according to the association.

Further reading

Sustainable consumer choices on the rise?

Rana Plaza tragedy: Do you know who made your clothes?

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