US ambassador Marcia Bernicat on Monday urged the Bangladesh government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association for a quick decision on the extension of the tenure of buyers’ initiatives Accord and Alliance in Bangladesh.
‘I urge BGMEA and the government of Bangladesh to come to a quick resolution on the Accord and Alliance’s extensions in Bangladesh,’ she said at a press conference on BGMEA-BUFT journalism study tour through the International Visitor Leadership Program held at BGMEA headquarters in the capital.
The ambassador said that delays in approving the extensions of Accord and Alliance would send a negative signal to buyers and consumers that Bangladesh was not committed to workplace safety.
‘….. we must all recognise that there is still work to be done on factory and building safety, that we must continue our efforts to ensure remediated factories stay safe, and that new workers are properly trained on safety practices,’ Bernicat said.
She said factory safety and labour rights were not just a priority for the US government, those were the priority for the US legislators, civil society, businesses and, more importantly, for US consumers.
The US ambassador called upon the government and BGMEA for taking more initiatives regarding reforms of Bangladesh Labour Act and the EPZ Labour Law to truly meet international standards as recommended by the International Labour Organisation.
‘Ahead of the International Labour Conference on May 28 and the Sustainability Compact on June 25, I encourage BGMEA and the government of Bangladesh to seize the moment and resolve the long-standing labour rights concerns now, so that Bangladesh can focus on preparing for its future as a middle income country and, eventually, a developed country,’ the envoy said.
Under the International Visitor Leadership Programme of the US Department of States, 11 Bangladeshi participants including six fellows from different media would travel to Washington, DC and New York to meet with policymakers, journalists, apparel industry leaders, labour rights organisations, and consumer rights organisations.
‘In addition to learning about US journalism methods and best practices, my sincere hope for this trip is that the fellows experience first-hand why the United States cares about workplace safety and labour rights issues as a global issue,’ Bernicat said.
The IVLP programme would also be an opportunity to explain the progress that Bangladesh has made on workplace safety, especially with the support of buyer-led initiatives like the Accord and the Alliance. Bangladesh’s RMG sector is much safer than in 2013 when the Rana Plaza disaster occurred,’ she claimed.
Following the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013 that killed more than 1,100 people, European retailer formed Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and North American buyers’ announced Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety undertaking a five-year plan, which set timeframes and accountability for inspections and training and workers empowerment programmes.
Accord has already obtained conditional extension for six more months as the tenure of the platform is going to end on May 31.
The extension of the timeframe of Alliance remained under process and the time frame of the platform would end on June 30.
One of the sources said that the Alliance is going to obtain extension from the government up to December 31 this year and the platform would get letter in this regard shortly.
BGMEA president Md Siddiqur Rahman and vice-president Mohammed Nasir, among others, spoke at the press conference.
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