After a decade-long push towards safer garment factory in Pakistan, the International Accord was finally announced on Wednesday, cheered on by 187 brand signatories, Pakistani unions and NGO witness signatories. The new agreement is modelled on the Bangladesh Accord, which was signed after the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse.
“After years of fighting for the expansion of the Accord to Pakistan, our workers can finally be brought under its monitoring and complaint mechanisms. If enough brands sign, workers will not have to fear for their lives when going to work and will know who to appeal to when their factory is unsafe. The strength of the Accord is in the fact that unions have equal power to corporations in its decision-making,” commented Nasir Mansoor, general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan, in a statement.
Pakistan Accord is legally binding
The Pakistan Accord provides unique mechanisms of accountability and is legally binding for brands. It will mandate time-bound renovation plans to eliminate hazards after they have been uncovered during comprehensive health and safety inspections. It also ensures that suppliers have the resources to pay for the renovations.
In addition, the Pakistan Accord will protect all workers throughout the brands’ supply chain and provide workers a confidential avenue to surface urgent safety and health concerns and secure swift corrective action. Documentation of the Accord’s performance will ensure transparency.
“The Accord programme will bring inspections, safety trainings and a complaint mechanism covering all health and safety issues, including gender-based violence, to workers in Pakistan producing for signatory brands,” said Zehra Khan, general secretary of the Home-Based Women Workers’ Federation.
She drew attention to women working for the garment industry from home, who are often unregistered: “Particular attention will be needed to ensure that women workers, who are often not officially registered and might be working from home, have the same access to this programme as other workers.”
Pakistan Accord was ten years in the making
More than 250 workers died on 11th September 2012 through the Ali Enterprises factory fire in Karachi, the worst fire in the history of the global garment industry. While neighbouring Bangladesh got into gear after the Rana Plaza collapse in April 2013 that cost the lives of more than 1,100 garment workers, Pakistan continued with an ‘audit and ignore’ system of factory inspections.
In fact, only weeks before the fire at Ali Enterprises, the factory was granted SAI8000 certification as a result of an audit carried out by RINA, a private auditing company, which included a check on safety standards. The newly signed Pakistan Accord should put a stop to this practice of relying on ineffective systems and auditing firms.
“It is important to note that garment and textile workers in Pakistan had to wait a decade for this progress. We hope workers in other key garment producing countries won’t have to wait as long,” emphasised Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator of the Clean Clothes Campaign, urging sourcing countries who have not yet embraced the International Accord to do so, and brands sourcing in Pakistan to sign the new Accord.
“We are heartened that the groundbreaking Accord programme will now come to Pakistan, where it is urgently needed. All brands sourcing from Pakistan should embrace this agreement,” Zeldenrust said.
The textile and garment industry in Pakistan employs around 4.2 million workers - a large proportion (2.2 million people) of whom manufacture garments; 1.8 million textiles, and 200,000 are employed in the footwear and leather industries.
“The hallmarks of the Pakistan Accord are accountability, enforceability and transparency. Under this new agreement, Pakistan will become one of the safest places in the world to make clothes,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium.
Who has signed the International Accord?
As of 2nd December 2022, 187 brands have committed to the International Accord by signing, among them Adidas, Aldi, Asos, Benetton, Bestseller, Boohoo, C&A, Carrefour, El Corte Ingles, Esprit, Fast Retailing, Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof, G-Star Raw, H&M, Hugo Boss, Inditex, Kik, Lidl, Mango, Marks & Spencer, the Oberalp Group, the Otto Group, Pepe Jeans, Primark, S.Oliver, Takko, Triumph and Zalando.
The complete list and updates can be accessed on the Accord’s website, internationalaccord.org.