Bangladeshi Accord on Fire and Building Safety to be adopted also in Pakistan
Almost ten years ago, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, bringing together more than 200 signatories, was created to deal with safety issues in Bangladeshi textile factories. The scheme is now going to be adopted also in Pakistan, again with the objective of ensuring safer working conditions for textile industry workers.
The accord came into being after the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in April 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where safety failures claimed the lives of 1,138 workers at a textile factory housed in an unsuitable building. The accord was then the European equivalent of the Alliance for Bangladeshi Worker Safety, a U.S.-sponsored body that was dissolved in 2018, handing its responsibilities over to the Bangladeshi garment manufacturers and exporters association (BGMEA).
An iteration of the accord for the Pakistani market will be signed on January 16 2023 by local manufacturers and international buyers. Some 100 Pakistani textile and apparel companies, operating 500 factories and worth $20 billion in exports, are expected to commit to the agreement, for a three-year term. Through the accord, western brands and their buyers will undertake to finance various schemes designed to improve local factory safety.
“Building on widespread safety improvements in Bangladesh, the Pakistan Accord includes all key International Accord features: independent safety inspections to address identified fire, electrical, structural and boiler hazards; monitoring and supporting remediation; a safety committee training and worker safety awareness programme; an independent complaints mechanism; a commitment to broad transparency; and local capacity-building to enhance a culture of health and safety in the industry,” said the Accord body in a press release issued on December 14.
International trade union groups IndustriAll and UNI Global Union will also participate in the scheme. Western signatories to the new agreement undertake to demand that their Pakistani suppliers comply with the Accord’s requirements. The overall aim of the scheme is to improve transparency with regards to the quality of working conditions for textile workers in Pakistan.
Last year, the country ranked tenth among the world's largest apparel exporters, behind, among others, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. Pakistan’s textile and apparel industry reportedly accounts for 46% of the local manufacturing industry’s volume, generating 8.5% of GDP and some 25 million direct and indirect jobs.
After months of preliminary work, the accord’s Pakistani iteration is finally about to come into effect, at a very challenging time for the local textile industry. A key country for global cotton production, Pakistan lost half of its crops this summer following disastrous floods which also severely hit its textile factories. Pakistan is the seventh-largest textile/apparel supplier to the U.S. (with exports worth $4.22 billion) and the fifth-largest supplier to the EU (with €3.34 billion), but is expected to suffer a 30% drop in textile/apparel exports this year. This will cause major cash-flow pressure, whose negative impact on working conditions no longer needs to be demonstrated.
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