The Alliance believes increasing collaboration is "critical" to creating a more effective inspection process

The Alliance believes increasing collaboration is "critical" to creating a more effective inspection process

A decision by the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh to reject inspection reports produced by third party auditors for the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety for some factories shared by the two groups has been described as a "setback" for garment factory safety efforts in the country.

There are thought to be around 340-350 factories that produce apparel products for both the Accord and Alliance signatory brands and retailers, and the Accord last month said it will inspect the factories itself.

"We understand from a recent announcement by the Accord that it will reject inspections in shared factories that were conducted by Alliance member brands prior to the formation of the Alliance," said Alliance chair Ellen Tauscher.

She added: "This is a setback for garment factory safety efforts in Bangladesh, and is based on incorrect information."

In fact, the Alliance says pre-standard inspections conducted by one of its member brands have been accepted by the Accord, which is backed by mostly-European based brands and retailers.

The Alliance notes that the majority of inspections completed at almost 600 factories its members source from were carried out by one of seven qualified audit firms in Bangladesh that have been retained and overseen by Alliance staff.

A minority of these inspections began prior to alignment on a harmonised safety standard by firms retained by a small number of member brands, Tauscher explained.

But they included follow-up visits to gather additional data or validate findings by one of the seven approved Alliance audit firms to ensure the report was in keeping with its equivalency requirements. 

The Alliance requires all inspections conducted by its member brands to meet the harmonised safety standard agreed to by the Alliance, the Accord and the government-led National Tripartite Committee (NTC) - including those conducted before the new standard was adopted. 

These inspections, it added, are subject to independent oversight and the Alliance's quality control process, including a thorough review by its engineers, committee of experts and additional international quality control firms.

Inspections that did not meet the harmonised standard were required by the Alliance to be re-inspected. 

Although the Accord indicated "methodological concerns" with Alliance inspection reports, Tauscher said the group "never raised these concerns with us, despite our interaction on the ground in Bangladesh, and the fact that we shared our inspection protocols with the Accord many months ago - without receiving the Accord's in return". 

Tauscher added: "Increasing thoughtful and respectful collaboration between the Alliance, the Accord, and the Government of Bangladesh is critical to creating a more effective inspection process and building much-needed capacity within the Bangladesh government, which will be responsible for ensuring factory safety long after our five-year efforts draw to a close." 

She said the Alliance continues to invite the Accord to partner on accepting inspections as well as in other areas such as worker training programmes and creating a joint advisory board.

"We believe that working together allows us to achieve our common long-term goals: permanent transformation and improvement of the entire Bangladesh garment industry."

Industry leaders believe the duplication of inspections will create confusion among the manufacturers, creating "unnecessary burden and hassle."

Click on the following link to read: BANGLADESH: Accord and Alliance discord over inspections.