The Accord on Fire and Building Safety apparently is at loggerheads with the industry again!
Formed in the wake of tragic Rana Plaza incident to carry out remediation, Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety decided to call it a day almost five years since inception but Accord decided to approach the judiciary to ensure staying put and simultaneously reportedly reached an agreement with the apex manufacturers’ body, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), to this end.
Months since, cracks are apparent and distinct.
The BGMEA recently accused the buyers’ body of taking new programmes on its own for factory renovation though the initiative is bound by a deal to work with local entrepreneurs and experts. It further alleged that Accord was often changing safety rules, making it difficult for the entrepreneurs to follow those.
“Accord is planning programmes on its own even after the deal. It is a breach of the deal’s basic spirit,” maintained BGMEA President Rubana Huq while presenting case studies on Accord’s work on 10 factories to back the allegations at a workshop of 180 factory owners at a Dhaka hotel.
She also criticised Accord’s multi-level inspection system, alleging it was delaying clearance for the factories. Huq alleged that factory owners were failing to secure fire safety clearance as Accord was often changing safety standards.
“We had an agreement with Accord in May this year that it will not take any decision unilaterally but that has not been honoured. Accord takes many decisions without discussing with us. The new conditions are slowing down our pace… It’s imposing conditions that should have been set in the past and this is harming the industry,” Huq said, adding that the industry has learned many things from Accord and urged it to give “a clear guideline about fire safety”.
However, the biggest fallout of the development has been for around 400 factories, which have reportedly been barred from taking international orders as only 200 out of 1,600 garment factories in the country have reportedly been able to meet the requirements of Accord.
Only 200 of 1,600 factories received fire safety certificate in past six years…The others were marked 80 per cent ready, but they failed to complete the rest of the renovation due to Accord’s changing policy, Huq claimed.
It may be mentioned here that Bangladesh garment industry is the second-largest apparel exporter globally after China, and the sector represents about 16 per cent of the economy and employs over 4 million workers.
Given the current circumstances, it perhaps would not be wrong to maintain that the industry is in for trying times even if Accord’s Chief Safety Inspector Stephen Quinn said that he took note of the entrepreneurs’ concerns and would convey these to the proper authorities.