A number of labour rights group have questioned the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety over the progress it claims it has made in remediating the country's garment industry in response to accusations its efforts have been overstated and it is concealing its lack of action. 

Last month, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety moved to defend its position after a report produced by the International Labor Rights Forum, Worker Rights Consortium, Clean Clothes Campaign and Maquila Solidarity Network, claimed there are "considerable" delays in repairing safety defects in factories supplying Alliance member companies. It also pointed to a number of brands, including Gap Inc and Walmart, for failing to fulfil their commitment to make supplier garment factories safe. 

Bangladesh Alliance defends position over remediation claims

The investigation, which involved 175 factories covered by both the Accord and Alliance, revealed the Accord inspection report detailed more than half as still not having appropriate fire exits, an approved fire alarm system or as having major structural problems. On the Alliance website meanwhile, the report stated that many of the researched factories are listed as "on track" in remediating safety hazards.

In response to the claims, The Honorable Ellen O'Kane Tauscher, independent chair of the board of the Alliance had said several areas of the report "misrepresents and oversimplifies the complexities" of the Alliance and the Accord's efforts to improve worker safety in Bangladesh.

However, in a letter to Alliance country director Jim Moriarty last week, the groups said they remained "concerned" over the statements made, responding directly to a number of the claims.

Despite the Alliance stating that "not a single factory still in the Alliance supply chain lacks viable fire exits", the groups pointed out that 62% of the factories lack viable fire exits, with deficiencies including stairwells discharging inside buildings, rather than leading outside to safety, and stairwells lacking fire-rated doors.

Additionally, in its response to the report, the Alliance had said "the complexity of the remediation process in some cases means that sustainable fixes to factory safety take longer than initially anticipated". 

The groups, however, say: "During the first year after the Alliance's establishment, this would have been an understandable argument for short delays on the installation of sprinklers and fire-rated doors. Now that it has been three and a half years since the establishment of the Alliance, and the deadlines for completing installation passed in many cases over two years ago, this argument is no longer credible."

The groups also point to the Alliance's claim that it has suspended 101 factories - "a considerably higher number" than the Accord. They highlight the Alliance's lack of transparency, adding: "[This] is not evidence the Alliance is genuinely committed to building safety. It proves only that the Alliance member brands, for reasons that are not shared with the public, decided to cease doing business with those facilities and cited safety concerns as the reason."

The labour groups urge the Alliance to stop making "false and misleading" statements about safety progress at its member corporations' factories, to "move far more aggressively and urgently" to ensure completion of renovations, and to follow through on its commitment to publish, starting in January 2017.

A spokesperson for the Alliance said the group stood by its previous comments on the report, that several areas of the report "misrepresents and oversimplifies the complexities" of the Alliance and the Accord's efforts to improve worker safety in Bangladesh.