Accord’s parting shot leaves the industry ‘worried’

by Apparel Resources

19-November-2018  |  5 mins read

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The month of November is all set to get over in a few days and so seems to be the tenure of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the European buyers’ platform, which following the country’s Supreme Court’s stand does not seem to have much scope of extending its stay in the country until of course something remarkable happens.

However, as during its over five-year stay in the country — which has been aimed at improving the safety scenario in the readymade garment sector — Accord appears to cause a few more flutters as it gets ready to leave.

As per recent media reports, the buyers’ platform has reportedly made clear its intentions to cut ties with around 532 garment factories for their alleged poor progress in remediation, and this number is not insignificant at all by any standards! Naturally, the business community is again at its wits ends apprehending a rather uncertain future. What’s more, many amongst these factories are reportedly very big and compliant and are owned by some of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) leaders, who have reportedly spent huge amount (Taka 5 crore to Taka 30 crore) already for the purpose of factory inspection and remediation.

“We cannot accept this… This is so sad,” maintained the aggrieved Commerce Minister (Tofail Ahmed) of the country at a recent event in Dhaka, who appears rather mindful of the consequences that it would have for not only the concerned factories but the apparel sector at large.

It may be mentioned here that the platform of more than 200 (mostly European-based) retailers formed to design a safe and healthy garment industry in the country is due to leave Bangladesh on November 30, and in case the 532 factories are not able to complete the remediation work to the platform’s satisfaction before this, it means the end of the road as far as eligibility to supply to Accord’s signatory brands are concerned.

“What progress has the Accord made here in Bangladesh? After five years they could only handover 20 out of more than 1,600 factories they have inspected so far,” shot back an agitated Ahmed, whose concerns were reiterated by Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry and an ex-President of BGMEA.

“We have done a wonderful job, but still we have to see the reckless, authoritarian attitude of their initiative. We condemn them…The reality is very crude and difficult. So, we are requesting our buyers not to show your muscle power,” reportedly underlined Mohiuddin, who went on to add that around 70 per cent of the buyers are still allegedly giving low prices despite improvements in quality, workplace safety and labour rights in the sector.

What perhaps also drew Mohiuddin’s ire is that without any so called professional registration and licence Bangladesh reportedly allowed the Accord to operate in the country so as to improve fire safety and structural integrity in the RMG sector.

It may be mentioned here that Accord has relentlessly been pursuing to extend its stay in the country, which has so far met with stiff opposition from not only the industry but even the country’s judiciary, so much so that Bangladesh’s apex court has reportedly made it amply clear that Accord should make its exit after the expiry of its current term, which happens to be November 30.

“There is no chance to extend the tenure of Accord in Bangladesh anymore. The Supreme Court also said that the Accord cannot stay here after November 30,” maintained Tofail Ahmed, which in many ways resonate the popular sentiment that prevails amongst the garment makers as far as Accord is concerned.

Things having reached such a stage where it could seriously impede the RMG sector’s growth and development, the Commerce Minister has now called upon the President of the country’s apex traders’ body BGMEA, to convene a meeting of the stakeholders and find out a feasible solution to the issue.

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