Some 532 readymade garment factories may lose business relations with European clothing brands and retailers if the EU retailers’ group Accord is to leave Bangladesh by November 30 deadline, as per a plan of the group.
Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh has, however, a plan to seek an Appellate Division order against a High Court directive asking it to depart the country on or before November 30, 2018.
The government and BGMEA officials seem to have become a bit ‘soft’ and are hoping that the group may stay here beyond November, as per industry insiders.
Stephen Quinn, chief safety inspector of Accord, on November 8 sent a letter to the signatory companies of the platform informing that the 2018 Transition Accord currently faced a restraining order issued by the High Court which, if not lifted, would force a premature closure of the Accord office in Bangladesh.
The safety inspector has also informed the brands and retailers about the consequences of application of the Accord Escalation Protocol if the restraining order is not lifted.
‘If the restraining order is not lifted, I will escalate all stage 2 factories to stage 3. I will take this action on 1 December 2018 whereby these supplier factories will no longer be eligible to produce for any Accord signatory brands. Brands currently sourcing from these factories will be required to terminate their business relationship in accordance with Article 16 of the Accord and time-frame set forth in the Accord Escalation Protocol,’ the letter reads.
Quinn in the letter also says he will escalate all the factories in stage 1 for more than six months to stage 2 on December 1.
If those factories fail to address outstanding remediation issues by the December 31, they will then be escalated to stage 3 on January 1, 2019 and will become ineligible to produce for any Accord signatory company.
According to the letter, there are 139 factories in stage 2 and those will be declared ineligible to produce for Accord signatory companies from December 1.
The letter adds that there are some 393 factories in stage 1 for more than six months as of November 30, 2018 and the units will be escalated to stage 2 on December I.
If those factories fail to make required remediation progress issues by the December 31, they will then be escalated to stage 3 on January 1, 2019 and they will no longer be eligible to run business with Accord signatory brands.
After the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 24, 2013, that killed more than 1,100 people, mostly garments workers, 180 apparel brands and retailers mostly from EU formed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh to improve workplace safety in Bangladesh while North American retailers formed the Alliance undertaking a five-year plan, which set timeframes and accountability for inspections and training and workers empowerment programmes.
Recently, a High Court bench issued a directive asking Accord to leave Bangladesh by November 30.
The HC also asked the government to restrain from extending the tenure of the Accord in Bangladesh in any manner, whatsoever.
Following the order from High Court, global buyers, investors and EU parliament members repeatedly requested government to extend the timeframe of the platform until the ‘rigorous readiness’ of a national body to take over the factory safety responsibility.
The chief safety inspector of Accord in its letter has informed EU brands and buyers that if the Accord is forced to close its liaison office in Bangladesh, the provisions of the 2018 Transition Accord, signed by global apparel brands and retailers and unions, remain in effect.
‘This means the Accord signatory brands will remain subject to the provisions of this agreement and the technical and executive decisions of the Accord; including the Accord Escalation Protocol,’ the letter says.
It also observes that a premature closure of the Accord office in Bangladesh is likely to have negative consequences related to the Accord’s ability to monitor and verify remediation progress at Accord covered factories.
The inspector has also proposed hiring international engineering firms to conduct inspections and continue our follow-up inspections in the RMG factories.
He says that if the Accord is forced to leave Bangladesh, inspecting factories already in escalation will not be possible for it at the required level needed to make sure such unsafe factories are pushed towards acceleration of remediation to merit de-escalation.
Accord has inspected more than 1,600 garment factories and 89 per cent of the safety flaws of the units have been corrected till September.
The platform has terminated business ties with 182 factories over their failure to make required progress in fixing safety faults.
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