European fashion brands who buy readymade garments from Bangladesh agreed on 3 September to hand over responsibility for issues like worker safety to a new body called the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC).
On 2nd and 3rd September, representatives of the BGMEA and the Steering Committee of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord), met in Dhaka to discuss the establishment of the RSC as previously agreed in the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ signed between the Accord Steering Committee and the BGMEA on 8 May 2019.
The parties discussed a wide range of issues to ensure a smooth transition of the Accord and its functions related to inspections, remediation, training and safety complaints mechanism to the RSC by end of May 2020.
The RSC is an unprecedented national initiative, uniting industry, brands and trade unions to ensure a sustainable solution, based on a unified compliance standard, to carry forward the significant accomplishments made on workplace safety in Bangladesh. The RSC will also encompass industrial relations, skill development and environmental standards.
The parties agreed on the importance of jointly developing the Memorandum and Articles of RSC and a ‘Transition Agreement’, drafts of which will be prepared following an agreed timetable.
The BGMEA and the Accord look forward to continuing the constructive discussions that took place over the last two days and commit to work together to ensure that RMG factories in Bangladesh are made safe and stay safe.
The Accord was set up by European brands to improve factory safety in Bangladesh after a garment factory complex collapsed in 2013, killing more than 1,100 people.
The five-year pact was originally due to expire in May 2018 but a longer transition period was agreed. Attempts by the Accord’s members to extend its authority to operate were challenged in court by factory owners and the government set up its own body to take over its work.
“We could reach an agreement after two days of detailed discussions among us where almost all the representatives of fashion brand attended,” said Rubana Huq, President of BGMEA.
“We have came together in good faith for a smooth transition from ACCORD to RSC and from now our formal journey has started,” she said.
Earlier, in a recent ‘Workshop on Fire Safety Issues and Technical Guideline’, BGMEA President Rubana Huq said, “Despite of trying our best, we are still not being able to progress properly because of Accord. The situation is getting worse day-by-day. They are inspecting a factory about 4-5 times. The faults that should’ve been found by them in the first attempt are coming out at 4th or 5th inspection.”
“As a result, the measures that we could’ve taken earlier to solve their issues are being delayed by a great period,” said Rubana Huq.
“We are being informed about a lot of facts after a long time which should’ve been informed by Accord earlier. The steps which should’ve been taken at 2013 by Accord, are being taken at 2019. Constantly they are introducing a lot of new findings,” she added.
However, finally, BGMEA and Accord met to discuss the establishment of the ‘RMG Sustainability Council (RSC)’ which perhaps opens a new ray of hope after all. Everyone is expecting that the National initiative may be more flexible, strong and cost-effective than Accord.