The tenure of Accord could not be extended after this month as a high court directive asked the platform to depart from the country by November 30 this year, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed reiterated on Monday.
“They (Accord) have no chance to remain here after November 30 as there is a High Court verdict in this regard. And we can’t go against the court decision,” he noted.
The platform’ Chief Safety Inspector in a letter to its signatory companies said that they would be required to terminate business relationships with some 532 factories that are already in its escalation process over the failure of timely remediation.
Accord told its signatories that, “if the restraining order is not lifted, these supplier factories will no longer be eligible to produce for any Accord signatory brands.”
“We cannot accept this. How can they do this?” the minister questioned it at a closing ceremony of a project titled Step Up held at a hotel in Dhaka.
With the intense situation, the minister suggested the BGMEA president call an emergency meeting involving all stakeholders immediately to take a decision in this connection.
The project partners are Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Danish textile and fashion associations: Dansk Fashion and Textile (Lead), Danish Chamber of Commerce/WEAR and the Danish Fashion Institute.
The project interventions have been carried out by the CSR and Productivity Team located at BGMEA with the support from Dansk Fashion and Textile and CSR Center Bangladesh, and the initial training of trainers capacity building was conducted by Sociability.
The project has been financed by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danida, and has been running from October 2015 to the end of 2018.
Launched in 2015 in seven factories it aimed to enhance efficiency and productivity and reduce the lead time.
Earlier, a total of 722 workers of seven factories were trained up on productivity and officers on CSR.
Md Siddiqur Rahman president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and its vice president Mohammed Nadir, among others, were present.
Though Accord has inspected some 1600 garment factories during the last five years, it has handed over responsibilities of only some 20 of its listed factories to the Remediation Coordination Cell, the minister said.
During the last five years, no industrial accidents took place in Bangladesh as the factory owners are now aware and have invested Tk 50 million to TK 20 million to improve the workplace safety in line with the recommendations by Accord and Alliance, he said.
At one hand, they have informed the buyers not to buy from some 500 factories while on the other hand, they are trying to extend tenure, he added.
He, however, said the tenure has been extended till November 30 and couldn’t be extended further.
While the minister was addressing, Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry came down heavily on the Accord.
He said the reality is very crude and harsh.
“About 70 percent of buyers decide on low prices of the goods not based on quality or values Bangladesh has done or achieved,” he added.
“So we will ask our buyers not to show your muscle and engage with us,” he said adding “We have done a great job.”
Without having any professional registration or licenses, we have allowed you to practice here and improve fire safety and structural integrity and so on in the garment industry here, he noted.
“But, still we have seen the reckless authoritarian attitude of their initiative. We condemn them. That’s not acceptable in a sovereign country,” he further said.
“Do not show your red eyes,” he pressed.
BGMEA president said though Bangladesh is the second largest apparel exporting country in the world and its export reached at $30.61 billion in the last fiscal, the country still has major drawbacks in the area of workers’ productivity.
Without having any professional registration or licenses, we have allowed Accord to practice here and improve fire safety and structural integrity and so on in the garment industry here.
Citing the statistics about productivity in Vietnam, China, and Bangladesh which are 55%, 65%, and 40% respectively. Also, Bangladesh has a huge scope to work in this area.
During the last five years entrepreneurs have put tremendous efforts and invested a lot of money to make the industry safer and sustainable, he noted.
“The RMG industry is now under a tremendous challenge, but we have clear potentials to grow our business further since we have only 6.46% share in the world market,” the BGMEA president said.
To capitalize the market potentials and maintain competitiveness, the sector has no alternative to improving productivity.
“From that perspective, the “Step-Up” project has played an important role by showing encouraging achievements in improving the productivity of participating factories,” he noted.
“They must stop making the last minute changes,” he said.
If long-term collaboration is not made, the battle between buyers and manufacturers will continue, he further added.