By The New York Times
This article was published in The New York Times May 28, 2021. Although the Accord (the safety agreement referenced) is specific to Bangladesh, it is often used as an example when discussing factory safety in other parts of the world. We are sharing because interest in some kind of global regulatory policy seems to be growing in interest, something we noted previously in Behind the Seams. We also suggest reading: Fires Everywhere as Pivotal Worker Safety Pact Trapped in Limbo.
Originally set to expire May 31, 2021, pressure from global activists, human rights organizations, garment workers, and fashion brands warranted a last-minute three-month extension of the Accord allowing negotiations to continue.
Since the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, in which a Dhaka factory collapse killed more than 1,100 people, Bangladesh has gone from being the global poster child for garment worker tragedies to a reformation success story.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety, signed in 2013 by European retailers like Inditex, H&M and Primark, labor unions and Bangladeshi factory owners, was a landmark, legally binding agreement for the global apparel industry. For the first time, almost 200 international brands agreed to independent inspections at the factories that produced their products and to collectively contribute funding for safety training and some factory improvements. Any companies that violated the terms could be fined or expelled from the group. A second, less-constraining agreement — the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety — signed by American companies like Walmart, Gap and Target, was also rolled out the same year.
But with the accord set to expire, the hard-won safety gains set in motion by the agreements could be at risk. Brands, unions and local manufacturers have been squabbling in negotiations for a replacement deal. All want a s