The Accord and Alliance, the two separate platforms of the EU and North American retailers yet to reach any consensus with BGMEA on the factory inspection process leaving anxiety to the apparel makers over the ‘probably factory shut’ in the RMG sector.
Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and Alliance for Bangladesh Workers Safety two separate unities of the retailers of European and North American buyers has been formed following the Rana Plaza Collapse.With an aim to ensure safety of the workers of the Bangladesh’s Readymade Garment (RMG) sector, the buyers under the said two umbrellas started inspecting the garment factories. Accord is a platform of 150 EU retailers while the Alliance is of 26 retailers from North America.
Though the Alliance was found going ensuring a particular level of cooperation with Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the supreme body of the apparel makers, in inspecting factories but the sector insiders and BGMEA leaders alleged that the Accord is planning to inspect the factories by applying its own strategies. The movement of Accord in inspecting the factories, however, raised the concern of apparel leaders and stakeholders of the sector as they are thinking that the strategies of Accord in inspecting the garment factories likely to shut many factories making thousands of workers of sector unemployed.
“The garment sector is under a threat. It is the time to overcome and protect such threat” said BGMEA president Atiqul Islam expressing dissatisfaction over the inspection process of Accord. The BGMEA leaders also sought cooperation of the government to bring coordination into the activities of Accord. In a meeting at BGMEA Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed also said that the country’s RMG sector is under threat and a conspiracy is going on to destroy the sector.
Meanwhile, after inspecting 78 factories in the country Accord has exposed the information on what they found while inspecting the factories. It found two factories faulty in ensuring safety of the workers.
“Two factories found running with flaws in ensuring compliances to the workers. We inspected 78 factories where the number of factories running with structural and safety flaws were two”, said Rob Wassy, Executive Director of Accord, Bangladesh Operations in a press conference last month.
At a press briefing, the Accord representatives displayed the pros and cons of 10 garment factories they found while inspecting it. The factories include, Alif Garments, Anlima Textile, Big Boss Crop, Dragon Sweater Bangladesh Limited, Fashion Island Limited, Grameen Knitwear Limited, Majumder Fashions Limited, Red Point Jackets Limited, Rio Fashion Wear Limited and Rio Design Limited and Viyellatex Limited.
Accord has identified three points related to workers’ safety in the Bangladesh apparel factories, according to the presentation.They include exceeding the load-bearing of floors, flawed electrical wires and piling of finished goods in the stairs and floors.“Many factories found over loaded, many with bad electrical equipment, said Rob, adding the factories too much stock of machinery and finished goods on the floors and in the passages,” Rob Wayss, executive director (Bangladesh operations) of Accord while presenting the findings.
The common fault with the power lines was the weakly placed wires on the walls and mess in switch boards, he said.
The Accord at the presentation also pointed out many other faults they found including keeping the gates under locked leaving a narrow escape for the workers, no special fire doors and lack of automatic fire alarm with insufficient exit capacity. The teams from the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh detected electrical safety problems in the factories as electric cables were found laid down on the floor without proper safety, said Rob Wayss, in an example of the type of flaws.
At the press conference at a Hotel in Dhaka, he said cables entering or leaving the terminal box are connected without cable gland and baseplate.Brad Loewen, chief safety inspector of the Accord, said cables are laid directly on concrete floor.The inspection teams also found overloading of goods on different floors in factory buildings, insufficient exit capacity through the exit doors and absence of sprinklers. Loewen showed a photograph of dozens of electric wires entangled on a factory floor.Wayss said the findings are similar as the problems are also similar in almost all the inspected factories.
Accord formally started safety checks from February 20.Of the 78 factories it inspected so far, till March last, two were temporarily closed after serious structural flaws were detected.The two factories were, Fame Sweater Limited owned by BGMEA director Md. MohsinulAzamShajal and Softex Cotton Bd Limited. The closure of the two factories left at least 2000 workers in a woe as it made them jobless.
While talking to this correspondent,Shajal said that they are worried over paying wages to the workers of the closed factories. Shajal also expressed dissatisfaction over the inspection of the Accord.
BGMEA data suggests that the Alliance has been following National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a standard of US to ensure fire safety, while inspecting factory buildings in the country. BGMEA leaders said that Bangladesh garment factories have been maintaining the fire safety measures as per the law of the land. As a result, the application of rules under the NFPA would result disarray in the sector.
Besides, the Alliance has been inspecting the factories considering sprinkler, fire escape, fire wall and structures and fire window provisions which the BGMEA say may cause hindrance to establishing smooth fire safety.
The BGMEA has also disagreed on the demands of establishing hotlines for empowering the workers of the buyers. BGMEA president Atiqul Islam said that“We understand that the hotline concept has a positive spirit but it may be misused in terms of making false reporting”.
In the meantime, Accord and Alliance agreed to accept each other’s certification to avoid duplication in factory inspection in the country.The platforms took such a decision as the factories that came under scrutiny export garments both to the US and the EU.The officials of Accord and Alliance reached the consensus at a meeting with Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed at his secretariat office in Dhaka.
Though the Accord and Alliance reached in a consensus but it did not meet the demands of the BGMEA leaders. The BGMEA leaders have been crying for a unified code of conduct which is yet to be settled. “It needs a unified code of conduct and the garment factories should be inspected on our domestic perspective”, said a member of BGMEA while talking to this correspondent expressing his anxiety that the inspection of Accord is a part of conspiracy to destroy the country’s RMG sector.
On the other hand the Alliance and Accord yet to involve the BGMEA at the steering committee though the repeated call of the BGMEA leaders. The Alliance on April 3 last though announced a 12 member advisory committee.
At a press statement, the Alliance, platform of the 26 North American and Australian retailers said that hailing from key positions in labor, government and academic fields, the Advisors will provide expertise and leadership to aid Alliance efforts to ensure workplace safety for Bangladeshi workers.
The Worker Safety Board of Advisors is comprised of VedisSeferian, President& CEO, WRAP, Dan Glickman,Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center, Heather Cruden, Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Helene Gayle,President & CEO, CARE USA, MelanneVerveer, Executive Director, Institute for Women, Peace and Security Georgetown University, Mohammad Hatem,Vice President, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Mujibur Rahman,Professor, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Nancy Nord, Former Commissioner, US Consumer Product Safety Commission Rick Darling, Executive Director, Government & Public Affairs, Li & Fung (Trading) Ltd, Sirajul Islam Rony, President of Bangladesh National Garment Workers Employees League (BNGWEL), Sukkur Mahmud,President, Executive Committee of the National Labour League (JatiyaSrmaik League) Wajedul Islam Khan,General Secretary, Bangladesh Trade Union Kendra.
Though it involved BKMEA and workers leaders but the demands of the apparel leaders was to involve them into the steering committee not in the advisory committee.