IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union have reached a $2.3 million settlement with a multinational apparel brand to resolve life-threatening workplace hazards. The settlement, reached through an arbitration process under the legally-binding Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety, represents one of the largest payments made by a brand to remedy workplace dangers in its supply chain.
The brand, under the terms of the settlement, has agreed to pay $2 million towards remediation of more than 150 garment factories in Bangladesh. The apparel maker will contribute a further $3,00,000 in IndustriALL and UNIs joint Supply Chain Worker Support Fund that was established to support the work of the global unions to improve pay and conditions for workers in global supply chains.
The global unions brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration arguing that the brand did not require its factories to remedy timely hazards leaving thousands of workers in dangerous conditions. The unions also charged that the brand did not ensure that it was financially feasible for its factories to fix on-going safety issues, as required by the Accord. At the time of the case’s filing in October 2016, none of the brand’s known supplier factories had completed the required remediation and all of them had at least one high risk safety hazard which had not been fixed. These included factories lacking fire alarm and sprinkler systems, lacking fire doors and not separating flammable materials from the factories’ boilers.
The unions’ claim for arbitration urged several of the brand’s contracted factories towards better progress—one went from a remediation rate of around 50 per cent in October 2016 to over 90 per cent in October 2017. However, many other factories supplying the brand continue to stagger far behind, with remediation rates hovering near 50 per cent and serious structural and fire safety issues left unresolved. All necessary safety improvements need to be completed by the Accord’s expiration in May 2018.