Bangladesh: Accord gets its way

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - The inspection agency to stay on until Feb 13.

The Accord somewhat prevailed in its fight to stay on in Bangladesh, after the Supreme Court yesterday extended the European factory inspection agency’s tenure by 281 more days from May 8.

The platform of more than 200 mostly European retailers’ tenure will now have to wrap up its activities in Bangladesh by February 13 next year -- earlier than what it was bargaining for though.

Formed following the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013 that killed 1,138 and injured 2,500, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh’s original tenure had ended on May 30 last year.

The platform though was pushing to stay on in the country for three more years to see through the remediation works it had started in its 1,600 sourcing factories -- a demand that the government and the garment factory owners were not willing to entertain.

It got a six-month extension until November, much to its dismay.

The Accord then took the matter to court and after much discourse it came to a close yesterday with the Supreme Court verdict.

It, however, had to make compromises.

Other than settling for an earlier exit from Bangladesh, the platform agreed to form a garment factory safety entity to be called the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) with representation from the BGMEA, brands and global and national trade unions.

The RSC will take over the Accord’s operations and inherit the infrastructure and staff.

All existing transparency features of the Accord will also be maintained, including full disclosure of all results of inspection and remediation activities on a public website.

It will work in cooperation with the government to ensure that its work compliments that of the Remediation Coordination Cell, an entity under the labour and employment ministry that will eventually be responsible for ensuring workplace safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories.

Over the course of this year, the Accord will work intensively with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association to get the RSC ready, it said in a statement yesterday.

The garment sector’s apex trade body in another statement said it has agreed on some important points to run the RSC.

There will be no termination or escalation of any factory from the Accord’s end without the consensus of the BGMEA’s technical team.

The Accord agreed that there will be no group termination in case of the failure of one factory and there will be no duplication of inspection between the safety initiatives, according to the BGMEA statement.

In case of any dispute between the BGMEA technical unit and the Accord, the matter will be referred to the RCC for final settlement.

The parties also agreed to work on developing modalities for listing new factories within the safety regimes.

“This represents the true spirit of collaboration,” the BGMEA said.

As of now, the Accord engineers have verified that about 225 of its sourcing factories have completed safety remediation of fire, electrical and structural safety hazards, Rob Wayss, executive director of the Accord, told The Daily Star last month.

The platform wants to verify in person that all its sourcing factories have completed their recommended remediation works.

Approximately 18 percent of the items that are reported as fixed are found not to be fully and/or not properly fixed when Accord engineers conduct the verification inspections, according to Wayss.

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