As the 2013 Accord prepares for its expiry this month and its replacement by the 2018 Transition Accord, the occasion was marked by a joint press conference between the Accord and the Bangladesh association of factory owners (BGMEA).
At the press conference, the BGMEA expressed its gratitude for the work the Accord has done to make Bangladeshi garment factories safer and gave full support for the Accord to continue until it can be replaced by a competent government authority.
BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman said:
Though our entrepreneurs have undergone a lot of pain in the remediation process, we appreciate the efforts of ACCORD in helping to raise the compliance level of our industry to international standards. Without their support it would have been difficult for us to achieve the progress we have made so far.
Extraordinary progress has been made in the five years since the 2013 Accord was signed in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza collapse, and millions of workers now work in safer factories:
- The overall progress rate of remediation at the 1,620 Accord-covered factories is 85 per cent.
- The Accord has engaged with 2.4 million worker participants to share vital safety information in more than 1,000 factories.
Bangladesh’s garment factories also benefit materially, as buyers recognize that a factory that has completed its safety work presents far fewer risks for them.
Crucial to the success of the Accord has been its unique features: the labour-corporate partnership that is at the heart of the agreement, the Accord’s recognition of the need to ensure that factory owners are able to afford the cost of safety improvements, and the binding nature of the agreement.
Speaking at the joint press conference alongside representatives of IndustriALL’s Bangladesh affiliates, IndustriALL assistant general secretary Jenny Holdcroft, underlined the positive change that has taken place in building and fire safety through the work of the national actors – the factory owners, trade unions, workers, and brands.
The Accord is a unique opportunity for factory management, workers and their trade unions, global brands and global unions to combine their forces and thus remedy the systemic problem of building and fire safety deficits that has plagued the Bangladeshi garment and textile industry.
While many lives have undoubtedly been saved, there is still more work to be done. Life-threatening safety hazards such as inadequate fire exits, fire alarms and fire protection systems are still present in hundreds of factories, and the remediation rate remains at 85 per cent.
Also speaking on behalf of the Accord Steering Committee, brand representative Ted Southall said:
Fire and building safety involves not just the renovations to make factories safe, but also rigorous and on-going factory inspections. As of today, there is not yet a fully resourced national regulatory body in place to take over this work. Therefore, the Accord signatories took the decision to sign the 2018 Transition Accord to ensure this vital safety work continues.
This week, the Government of Bangladesh confirmed it would extend the permission of the Accord to work beyond May 2018. A joint Transition Monitoring Committee (TMC) has been established by the Government for the purpose of determining when the agreed conditions for a handover of the Accord work to a fully functional and competent national regulatory body have been met.
The TMC, which is comprised of Accord brands, global trade unions, Bangladeshi Garment Manufacturers’ Association (BGMEA), ILO and the Bangladesh government, met on May 6 and determined that the criteria agreed by the Accord and the BGMEA and recognized by the Government of Bangladesh have not yet been met.
These criteria include: demonstrated proficiency in inspection capacity, remediation of hazards, enforcement of the law against non-compliant factories, full transparency of governance and remediation progress, and investigation and fair resolution of workers’ safety complaints.
We are pleased that the BGMEA supports the start of the 2018 Transition Accord on 1 June and for the work to continue until these criteria are met,
concludes Jenny Holdcroft.