DHAKA – Bangladesh’s Supreme Court extended on Sunday the Accord on Fire and Building Safety for 281 working days after a lingering legal battle.
The Accord is an independent, legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions to work towards a safe and healthy garment and textile industry in Bangladesh.
It was created in 2013 in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza building collapse that led to the death of around 1,100 workers and left 2,500 others injured.
Safety executives have inspected more than 1,600 garment factories in Bangladesh on behalf of around 200 global brands and retailers.
The original five-year agreement expired in May 2018 and after which the brands signed a three-year Transition Accord, which was opposed by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) trade group.
Bangladesh High Court in a ruling in August asked Accord to leave the country after Nov. 30, 2018.
Accord, which is headquartered in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, challenged the ruling in the Supreme Court and after several adjournments, a four-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain passed the order on Sunday.
“Today we have submitted a memorandum of understanding with BGMEA to the court,” Accord lawyer Omar H Khan told EFE.
“The court extended Accord’s tenure for 281 working days by accepting the memorandum of understanding.
“In the meantime we will work with BGMEA for a transition of Accord-listed factories.”
Khan said the memorandum of understanding was signed with BGMEA on May 8 but it will only be clear when the order becomes effective after getting a full judgement.
According to a quarterly aggregate report by Accord released on Friday, some 1,120 out of 1,610 Accord-listed readymade garment factories remained behind schedule in remediating safety hazards.
A similar platform for North American buyers, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, closed its activities on Dec. 31 after the end of its five-year term.
The textile sector in Bangladesh has faced intense scrutiny for years because of its poor working conditions, especially after the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in 2013.
In the fiscal year 2017-2018, Bangladesh exported textile products worth $30.6 billion, which makes up more than 83 percent of its total exports.