IndustriALL has joined with UNI Global Union and representatives of the brand signatories of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh in a delegation to secure the support of employers, government and responsible authorities in Bangladesh for the Accord.
Between July 29 and August 1, the delegation conducted a series of meetings in Dhaka to explain in detail the content and aims of the Accord, signed by more than 80 clothing brands and retailers and to explore how it can complement and reinforce the tripartite national plan of action agreed between unions, employers and the government in Bangladesh.
In all meetings a high level of commitment was expressed to working together with the Accord. A consistent emphasis was put on the need to coordinate efforts in order to maximize impacts and avoid duplication of efforts.
A key meeting was with the Secretary of Labour who chairs the High-Level Tripartite Committee on the National Action Plan on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity, an important point of coordination between the Accord and the NAP. The discussion focused on the need for both initiatives to apply a common standard of fire and building safety, based on current Bangladesh standards but also incorporating higher international standards.
The need for coordination of efforts and unified standards was again emphasized in the meeting with employer organizations BGMEA, BKMEA and BEF. BGMEA President Atiqul Islam expressed support for the Accord and pledged their full cooperation in dealing with situations when Accord inspections identify factories that do not meet safety standards. The Accord delegation recognized that notifying the BGMEA at an early stage is a vital step in the process to secure the cooperation of factory owners.
In other meetings, the delegation was informed of the difficulties faced by those bodies engaged in implementing building and fire safety standards in Bangladesh. Professors from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), who have so far conducted 200 preliminary visual inspections of factories following the Rana Plaza tragedy, cited a number of problems including lack of engineers accredited in building design and absence of any documentation on structural design or soil quality in as many as 40 to 50 percent of the investigated factories. Similar problems were described by the Fire Service which has the responsibility for conducting fire safety inspections and issuing compliance certificates.
Delegation members also had the opportunity to meet with representatives of several donor governments and the IFC, which are supporting various initiatives to upgrade the garment sector in Bangladesh.
It was widely recognized that the ILO has a vital role to play in assisting the parties to the National Action Plan and the Accord to coordinate their efforts. The assistance of ILO Bangladesh was highly appreciated in organizing the program of meetings for the delegation.