115th company signs Bangladesh safety accord
Last Tuesday, Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) – which runs stores across Great Britain under its own name and as Peacocks – finally signed the union-sponsored Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord, becoming the 115th company to do so. It was a big win for months of campaigning by unions and NGOs, including another push planned for this weekend, the first anniversary of the Tazreen Fashions factory fire which killed over a hundred people.
Popular protest persuaded EWM to sign the Accord which binds it legally to the process of independent inspection and improvements which arose out of the Rana Plaza factory collapse this April. That factory collapse marked a turning point in years of campaigning by Bangladeshi unions, their global equivalents IndustriALL and UNIglobal, the Clean Clothes Campaign and others. Finally, companies started doing what they were asked to do, and the Accord now covers over 1600 factories in Bangladesh.
Our campaign partners, NGOs like Labour Behind the Label, SEAD in Scotland, and People & Planet, are continuing to demand that EWM meet its obligations to pay compensation to the victims of the Tazreen fire, and we support that call, although we cancelled the actions we had planned for this weekend to welcome the decision on the Accord.
We did this not because we think the campaign for compensation is unimportant, but because it is also important to welcome victories when we persuade companies to do the right thing. It demonstrates to them that we can reach agreements as well as holding them to account, and it should also give heart to campaigners, demonstrating that what they do makes a difference.
Long-term, we think that the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety will have a much greater impact on trade union rights and garment workers living conditions in Bangladesh and throughout global supply chains more widely. The Bangladesh government (with funding from DFID among others) is now committed to proper factory inspections in the factories not covered by programmes like the Accord. The ILO, for example, says that the Accord model needs to be repeated in supply chains throughout South East Asia.
But it’s always important to review these campaign decisions, and we’re committed to doing that with our friends in the NGO world, as well as keeping up the campaign for compensation and urging our four remaining targets to sign the Accord – you could celebrate EWM’s decision to sign the Accord by sending another message to Bank, Bench, Mexx and Republic.