In the six years since the Bangladesh Accord was founded, its complaint mechanism has saved lives and stopped retaliation in hundreds of factories across Bangladesh. Our new report published today, Calling for Remedy, details how garment workers have used the independent mechanism to secure remediation when they notice hazards in their factories or face reprisals for raising health and safety concerns.
The Accord was established recognizing that independent inspections by qualified engineers are only part of the solution and that workers and their unions are in the best position to conduct day-to-day monitoring and reporting on workplaces conditions. The Accord’s complaint mechanism enables them to report concerns about health and safety hazards safely, and if they choose, anonymously.
In addition to building safety, occupational safety and health (OSH) issues covered by the Accord include personal protective equipment, maternity leave, excessive working hours, forced overtime, sexual harassment, and workplace violence – as well as OSH-related pay, such as sick pay, maternity pay, and payments of any nature which may have been impacted as a result of reprisal actions against those who have pursued a claim under safety and health.
Because the Accord’s complaint mechanism provides responsive and meaningful action and is successful at securing remediation, workers are increasingly more likely to trust it and use it. The complaint mechanism ensures that workers are able to exercise their right to refuse dangerous work, provides transparency by publicly reporting on all complaints received, and provides apparel brands and retailers with knowledge of factory-level issues that would otherwise go undetected and unreported.
The success of the complaint mechanism run by the Accord – trusted by workers for its independence and effectiveness – is one more argument why the program should remain in Bangladesh and continue to operate independently until the government and local institutions are ready to take on the task. The government’s first attempt at establishing a complaint mechanism does not allow anonymity, and reports receiving only 25 complaints since 2014, compared to 1,329 complaints received by the Accord during the same time period.
The Accord’s independent inspections, trainings and complaint mechanism have brought real changes for workers – the majority women – in Bangladesh and have increased international confidence in the country’s garment industry. With a new High Court ruling on the future of this program due on May 19, together with the other three Accord NGO witness signatories, ILRF is once more stressing the need to continue the independent work of the Accord and to only transfer the work to an organization that lives up to the readiness criteria as established by the International Labour Organization.
Senior Corporate Accountability Analyst
P.S. I hope to see you at ILRF’s Labor Rights Defenders Awards Ceremony & Reception next week. Tickets are still available here.