Leaders of the Bangladesh apparel industry want to form a single podium to watch over safety and workers rights issues in the Ready-made Garment (RMG) sector after the ending of ongoing safety evaluation by the Accord and Alliance, two western buyers’ platforms. However, a top global apparel retailer, on behalf of the Accord, favored extending the tenure of the EU-based retailers’ platform by three more years.
RMG factories have been being inspected by Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh since 2014. In the wake of the terrible industrial mishap especially after the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed more than 1100 workers and injured many. The two western platforms were formed to ensure workplace safety in Bangladesh’s apparel industry. The tenure of Accord and Alliance inspection will end in June 2018.
Among others, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Md Siddiqur Rahman and Senior Advisor of H&M Karl Gunnar Fagerlin were present at the meeting held at BGMEA headquarters in the city on 16th November.
A meeting source said, BGMEA formed a committee to prepare strategy for setting up a new platform to supervise post-Accord and Alliance safety assessment in the RMG industry and the committee has already made the recommendation.
The committee will place the recommendations before the BGMEA board in a meeting, scheduled to be held early December for approval. The aim of the single platform is to bring all inspections under a common platform to avoid additional expenses, time and harassment.
“Manufacturers do not want to depend on foreign initiatives for a long time for safety inspection and other related issues. That is why the committee recommended forming a single platform,” a committee member said.
The proposed platform would be comprised of representative from the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), BGMEA, BKMEA, buyers, Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence, Labor and Employment Ministry and RAJUK, International Labor Organizations (ILO) and worker federations.
It is a long-term vision of the sector that is committed to see a single platform, which will watch over the safety standards, workers rights and social compliance issues instead of individual inspection, said another member of the committee.
“We do not want elimination of Accord and Alliance. Instead of their extensions, we want a new platform with all stakeholders,” he said.
The formation of the platform will finally come into being only after having discussions with all the stakeholders, he added.
H&M has expressed that the company is in favor of extending the tenure of Accord for additional three years apprehending that the ongoing remediation might not complete by 2018. They (H&M officials) suggested the BGMEA to share the new proposal with the buyers and brands concerned before the next Steering Committee meeting of the Accord.
The meeting was also informed that the BGMEA wanted to reduce the financial contribution of buyers, who are currently bearing the cost of factory inspection, meeting sources said. The new factories would be set up meeting all the compliance requirements, they said, explaining that the cost of inspection on fire, electrical and structural integrity would be borne by an individual factory.
The H&M officials also wanted to know about the preparation of the apparel makers to get GSP plus profit in the EU and to hold its competitiveness once the country graduates to mid-income country, said a BGMEA leader, who attended the meeting.