By FutureLaw Desk

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has announced that two landmark cases against multinational fashion brands brought by global unions IndustriALL and UNI, under the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety have been officially closed.  The tribunal hearing the case issued termination orders this week.

The brands have met all terms of the settlements, including paying more than US$2.3 million towards remediating unsafe conditions in Bangladesh ready-made garment factories. The Accord will distribute the money to eligible factories.

The Accord, which covered 2.5 million workers in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry, was established by IndustriALL and UNI in 2013 following the Rana Plaza disaster that killed over 1,100 garment workers and injured more than 2,000. It was the first agreement with a legally-binding mandate requiring fashion brands to require their contractors to eliminate fire, structural, and electrical safety issues. It expired on 31 May 2018.

As per Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, these cases prove the Accord’s power to hold companies accountable and make work safer across the supply chain. She also noted that the legally-binding nature of the Accord have facilitated to fix tens-of-thousands of potentially deadly hazards and to train more than one million workers.

The arbitrations were filed in July 2016 and October 2016 to bring recalcitrant brands into compliance with the terms of the Accord. The brands did not require the contracted factories to remedy hazards in a timely manner—leaving thousands of workers in dangerous conditions. The unions also charged that the brands did not ensure that contracted factories had the financial resources to fix ongoing safety issues.

The first brand reached a settlement in December 2017, and the second, in January 2018.

A second agreement with nearly 200 brand signatories, the 2018 Transition Accord, went into effect June 1 of this year. It extends the Accord’s protections until 31 May 2021, unless a joint monitoring committee (comprised of Accord brand signatories, Accord trade union signatories, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the International Labour Organization, and the Government of Bangladesh) unanimously agrees that a set of rigorous conditions for a handover to a national regulatory body have been met prior to then.

Both settlements were made possible by pro bono representation provided to the two global unions by Marney Cheek and her team at Covington & Burling.

Source: Industrial Union