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February 15, 2019

Bangladesh Accord calls for talks on transition plan

By Beth Wright

The Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is calling on the country’s government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) to negotiate with its Steering Committee on a “responsible and sustainable” transition plan as a decision on the Accord ‘s future looms next week.

Accord Steering Committee members have been engaged in discussions with the Bangladesh government and BGMEA since October 2017 on transition planning. Following commitments made to the Appellate Court in December 2018 related to a judgment to close the Accord ‘s Bangladesh office operations, the trio have intensified discussions to finalise a transition plan for the Accord ‘s work to be assumed by the Remediation Coordination Cell of the Department of Inspections of Factories and Establishments (RCC-DIFE).

A decision on the future of the Accord has been pushed back five times, with a hearing now due to take place on Monday (18 February). 

The hearing was initially set to take place on 6 December but was pushed back to 10 December, then 17 December before being delayed until 21 January and now next week. 

In its statement, the Accord “expresses deep concerns” regarding the lack of progress in discussions. It claims it is “widely recognised” by those following the RMG industry in Bangladesh that the RCC-DIFE remains “at its earliest stages of development and is not yet prepared to adequately regulate building and occupational safety and health at its current base of RMG factories.”

“The unwillingness of the Government of Bangladesh and BGMEA to negotiate with the Accord Steering Committee on a responsible and sustainable transition plan is bringing significant risk to the reputation of the Bangladesh RMG industry, which will have associated damaging consequences,” the Accord says. “The lack of a responsible transition places millions of RMG workers in danger and can reverse the substantial positive changes to RMG safety that have occurred since May 2013. It also jeopardises the efforts of their international business customers from building and perpetuating transparent and reliable human rights due diligence responsibilities.”

It added the Steering Committee “remains committed to finalising a responsible transition plan”, which includes supporting the RCC-DIFE, the Accord working to complete safety remediation and safety protections at covered factories, and a managed hand-back of safety and health responsibility of Accord -covered factories to the RCC-DIFE.

“We call upon the Government of Bangladesh and BGMEA to jointly work with the Accord Steering Committee in these efforts so that the Appellate Court can be informed accordingly; so that unwelcomed, negative attention to the Bangladesh industry can be averted; and so that the laudable progress on safety and health of the past five-plus years becomes sustainable. Given the short time remaining before the 18 February 2019 court appearance, this call to the Government of Bangladesh and BGMEA is urgent.”

The Accord ‘s statement follows a move by a group of 190 investors representing more than US$3trn in assets earlier this week urging the Bangladesh government not to abandon the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh until it is fully capable of continuing its work.

BGMEA and RCC-DIFE did not respond to a request for comment at the time of going to press while a government representative could not be reached for immediate comment out of office hours.

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