A new initiative named ‘Version 2.0’ comprising of the government, BGMEA, ILO, trade unions and global brands is likely to replace two buyers’ groups the Accord and the Alliance when their readymade garment sector safety initiatives expire in July next year.
According to a draft proposal of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the Version 2.0 will also include the Sustainable Development Goals as part of a bigger agenda in the RMG landscape with the help of development partners.
The new initiative, however, will delete the terminology ‘legally binding’ from the present article of the Accord and the Alliance when it will come into force.
The BGMEA formed a five-member committee on October 29 last year to develop a strategy to cope with the situation following the expiry of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the platform of European buyers, and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, the platform of North American buyers, in 2018.
The committee has recently prepared some articles of association for new initiative saying that the steering committee of Version 2.0 would be constituted with the representations of the BGMEA, International Labour Organisation, Department of Inspection For Factories and Establishments, trade unions and brands.
The steering committee will appoint a qualified chief executive officer to oversee the operations of Version 2.0.
It said that under the new initiative, factory assessment would be done on an individual basis and due to failure of remediation in any particular unit would not impact the other production units belonging to the same group.
Laws of land will be applicable regarding closure of factories, compensation to the workers and penalty to the factory owners, the draft strategy said.
According to the BGMEA draft, the Version 2.0 will be registered in Bangladesh under the relevant act.
It proposed that for the initial period (June 2018–June 2020) signatory buyers will continue their contributions but at a reduction of 50 per cent of the annual dues that they have been paying in to the Accord and the Alliance since 2013 as the vast majority of remediation will have been completed and only some follow up would be pending.
From 2021, Version 2.0 will become fully self-financing and contributions by brands would be discontinued, the draft said.
The BGMEA committee proposed that third-party auditors, having prior experience on audit and certification with the Accord and the Alliance, will be hired for conducting all structural, fire and electrical audit and the new factories will have to pay for their inspections based upon the square footage of their facility.
Through credible safety inspections of the new factories and monitoring of the old ones would be carried out by skilled personnel based on internationally recognised workplace safety standards and national standards.
As per the draft proposal, the safety inspectors will be available to provide input to Remediation Coordination Cell legislative review and to support capacity building work regarding inspections by the labour ministry.
One of the BGMEA leaders told New Age that they had already held initial discussion with the government, ILO, Accord and Alliance over the strategy.
‘The Alliance appreciated the proposed post-2018 strategy but there were reservations from IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union, which are the signatories of the Accord,’ he said.
The BGMEA leader said that they would hold a meeting with the Accord over the Version 2.0 on February 4.
After the Rana Plaza building collapse, which killed more than 1,100 people, mostly garment workers, in April 2013, North American retailers, including top brands Walmart and Gap, formed the Alliance and European retailers formed the Accord undertaking a five-year plan which set timeframes and accountability for safety inspections and training and workers’ empowerment programmes.
The Accord has so far conducted initial inspections at 1,600 factories while the Alliance inspected 759 factories.
At the same time, under the National Action Plan, the Bangladesh government with the collaboration of the International Labour Organisation inspected around 1,500 factories.
During the inspections, 148 factories were sent to a government-set review panel for the decision as the inspection teams found critical safety issues in the units.
Of the 148 factories, the review committee, which is comprised of representatives from the government, Accord, Alliance, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and the BGMEA, shut down 37 factories while closed 42 units partially.