Two separate groups of North American and European fashion retailers and buyers have so far severed business relations with 217 Bangladeshi readymade garment factories on grounds of unsafe working conditions as the groups conducted safety inspection at more than 2,600 factories in the country following the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 24, 2013.
After the worst-ever industrial disaster that killed more than 1,100 people, mostly garments workers, North American retailers including Walmart and Gap formed the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety in July 2013 undertaking a five-year plan, which set timeframes and accountability for inspections and training and workers empowerment programmes.
At the same time, EU retailers formed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety to improve factory safety in Bangladesh.
Both the initiatives launched structural, electrical and fire safety inspections at the factories from where they procure products in February 2014 under a common safety standard.
The Accord conducted initial safety assessment at 1,850 factories while the Alliance inspected 775 RMG units.
During the inspection, Accord and Alliance referred 150 factories to a government-set review panel consisting of representatives from the government, Accord, Alliance, BUET, BGMEA and BKMEA, suggesting evacuation as the retailers’ inspection teams got critical findings in the units.
Out of the 150 factories, 39 were closed, 42 factories were partially closed and 69 factories were allowed to operate with some conditions.
After completing the initial assessment the initiatives provided corrective action plans to the factory owners with certain timeframe to fix the safety faults.
According to the data of the two initiatives, authorities of most of the factories remain behind the schedule.
Accord statistics showed the platform also conducted 16,105 follow-up inspections at the factories which underwent its initial assessment to verify status of remediation and found 61 factories completed remediation.
The data showed the platform has so far cut business relations with 71 factories due to their failure in complying with Accord’s safety requirements.
According to the Accord statistics, 644 factories completed all electrical safety remediation, which has been verified by Accord engineers while 192 additional factories reported that electrical safety remediation was completed but verification remains pending.
Completion of fire safety remediation in 90 factories has been verified while the verification of the remediation in 131 factories remains pending.
The Accord report said that a total of 207 factories completed all structural safety remediation which has been verified while 263 additional factories reported that structural safety remediation was completed but verification remains pending.
The Alliance statistics showed that 75 per cent of all safety issues including 68 per cent of all high priority issues were fixed in its listed factories.
It said that a total of 146 factories were suspended from the compliant list of the Alliance due to lack of remediation progress in the units.
The Alliance report said that 63 per cent of all struc tural faults were fixed while 74 per cent of fire safety issues were remediated in its listed factories.
Md Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, on Saturday told New Age that suspension of business ties with factories by the buyers should be in proper way.
In some cases, Accord and Alliance suspend relations without any justification, which is harmful to the country.
‘As per the initial corrective action plan, I think more than 90 per cent of factories have completed remediation. By providing additional CAP Accord and Alliance are making the process never-ending,’ he said.
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