The RMG Sustainability Council started its journey on Monday as the newly formed national organisation took over from the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a platform of European buyers and retailers, to conduct workplace safety programmes at the country’s readymade garment factories.
As per a High Court directive, Accord’s tenure in Bangladesh ended on May 31 this year and the platform’s operations were overtaken by the RSC on Monday, industry leaders said.
‘Today the operations of the Bangladesh offices of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh have transitioned to the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), a permanent national organisation with equal representation from RMG manufacturers, global apparel companies, and trade unions representing garment workers,’ said a press release.
Meanwhile, Accord in a circular announced the closure of its Bangladesh office activities from May 31.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Rubana Huq told reporters on Monday that the RSC had already incorporated and received its licence for operation from the commerce ministry.
The RSC board has a total of 18 directors — six each from industry, brands and trade unions.
She said that the RSC had taken over Accord’s current office and offered all existing staff members to join the RSC.
Following the Rana Plaza building collapse on April 23, 2013 that killed more than 1,100 people most of whom were garment workers, the EU buyers and brands formed Accord to improve workplace safety in Bangladesh’s apparel sector over a period of five years that ended in May, 2018.
The platform wanted an extension for another three years but the government allowed it a transition period of only six months.
Later in February, 2019, the platform submitted a time-bound transition plan to the High Court seeking an extension period of 281 days. The court allowed the platform to continue operations up to May this year.
On January 14 this year, the representatives of the BGMEA and Accord’s steering committee finalised the establishment of the RSC by signing a transition agreement and agreeing the Articles of Association for the RSC.
The press release issued by the RSC on Monday said that the national platform would initially conduct its workplace safety programmes at more than 1600 RMG factories covered under Accord, but was envisaged to eventually cover all RMG exporting garment factories.
Rubana Huq, also a representative on the RSC board of directors, said that they would make sure that Bangladesh remained one of the safest countries to source RMG products from through the collective efforts of the brands and trade unions.
H&M’s representative on the board Roger Hubert said that with the establishment of the RSC, brands could continue to honour their supply chain responsibilities that they had committed to through Accord in agreements signed with the trade unions.
‘Together with our Bangladeshi trade union affiliates we will help ensure workers in RMG factories have safe workplaces and have access to remedy to address safety concerns and exercise the right to safe workplaces,’ said IndustriALL Bangladesh Council general secretary China Rahman.
After the Rana Plaza collapse, North American fashion brands and retailers formed the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety whose operations ended on December 31, 2018.
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