Int’l pressure pays off, SC allows Accord to operate until 2020

BDApparelNews Desk
19 May 2019  

File photo of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.

File photo of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.

International pressure has paid off as the Supreme Court has allowed Bangladesh Accord to continue operation for one more year and remediate the country’s apparel industries.

The extension has been allowed for 281 working days, starting from May 8 – the date Accord and Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) inked a deal to operate jointly. According to calculation, the extension will be valid beyond February 2020.

The BGMEA will form a body within the Accord and they will jointly inspect and ensure safety and security of apparel factories and workers in Bangladesh, the apex court said.

However, Accord must leave after completion of 281 days from May 8, 2019 – the date of the deal, Barrister Imtiaz Mainul Islam, lawyer for BGMEA, told Bangladesh Apparel News. “Now, the factory remediation and inspection will be under joint scrutiny of BGMEA and Accord.”

BGMEA President Rubana Huq is expected to issue a formal statement to this purpose. Insiders said, the press statement will be issued by May 20, 2019.

A four-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain passed the order on May 19, 2019, after disposing of an appeal filed by Accord challenging a High Court verdict; ending months of dillydallying over the extension.

INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE WINS?

Several labour rights organisations had been vocal throughout demanding an extension of Accord. Alongside, local organisations were also batting for the European buyers’ and brands’ platform for factory remediation.

READ MORE: 'Bangladesh not ready to take Accord's work'

Clean Clothes Campaign explicitly batted for Accord on multiple occasions, condemning the efforts of Bangladesh government to force Accord out of the country. Their latest statement was out on May 15, saying Accord has the only credible workers’ complaint programme.

READ MORE: Brands speak out for Accord

Several brands and buyers had also come together to pressure for the extension of Accord. Investor groups were also vocal in pressuring Bangladesh government.

READ MORE: Investors write to Bangladesh PM for Accord

European countries were in the opinion that an extension be allowed to Accord until December 2018, which will allow a credible transition over to Bangladesh authorities who will be ready to undertake Accord’s work by then.

READ MORE: Investors want BGMEA's support

BANGLADESH WAS UNWILLING

Bangladesh government was unwilling to allow Accord to continue operation in Bangladesh.

Several industry stakeholders, including top officials from trade groups, told Bangladesh Apparel News that Accord forced many industries to undergo expensive remediation work – costing from US $2 million to US $10 million – for each of the remediated factories.

READ MORE: Accord must stay in 8 conditions

Manufacturers have opined that pressure for Accord’s extension is a ploy for pressuring Bangladesh to lower down the cost for apparel. On the other hand, such expensive remediation has not helped Bangladesh to secure better pricing of apparel.

READ MORE: BGMEA's new board meets Accord

The new board of BGMEA, which took over in May, explicitly told Bangladesh Apparel News that they were against bowing to any international pressure regarding Accord and that they would accept whatever judgement would be delivered by the High Court.