Post-2018 RMG safety monitoring
Alliance looks to form capable successor organisation
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety has initiated a process to form a separate entity which will monitor safety issues in readymade garment factories after 2018, as its five-year tenure is going to end this year, sources said.
The poor capacity of government-formed remediation coordination cell (RCC) has prompted the Alliance to take such a move, they added.
Alliance, a platform of 29 North America-based global garment companies, has already contacted the BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) and the labour ministry over the issue of forming a separate monitoring authority.
As part of the process, the Alliance wants to involve government and the BGMEA in its proposed 'safety monitoring organisation (SMO)' that would carry forward the Alliance's inspections, safety monitoring, training and helpline services after 2018, people familiar with the process said.
The SMO would be funded by brands, but the costs of inspection on fire, electrical and structural integrity in newly listed and existing factories that go for expansion would have to be borne by individual factories, they said.
Currently, Alliance signatory brands pay the costs of inspection while factory management bears the post-inspection remedial costs.
The SMO will be formed for at least two years until 2020, people involved in the process said, adding that it would be abolished once the RCC becomes capable.
Earlier on different occasions, Alliance said that it wants to hand over its responsibilities to a credible, transparent and independent body.
But RCC has yet to increase its capacity to the desired level, which led the other EU-based garment buyers' platform, Accord, to extend its tenure beyond 2018, they added.
In a statement, the Alliance said its Board of Directors was in Dhaka last week to discuss plans to form a successor organisation that would carry forward the Alliance's inspections, safety monitoring, training and helpline services once the Alliance's five-year term draws to a close at the end of 2018.
"Alliance member-brands are ready to partner with the Bangladesh government and the BGMEA to establish an independent, credible, locally-led organisation that will continue our important work," said James Moriarty, executive director of the Alliance.
"We have seen progress in our talks to date, and we are encouraged by momentum toward a collective agreement on a sustained safety effort."
Since its establishment in 2013, the Alliance has brought about a sea change in safety-related programmes in the Alliance-affiliated factories.
Remediation across more than 600 factories is 90 per cent complete; 1.4 million workers in nearly 1,000 factories have access to the 24-hour Alliance helpline; 1.5 million workers have been trained in fire safety; and democratically elected Worker Safety Committees have been established in nearly 200 factories.
"Safe garment factories protect millions of workers, and they are critical to maintaining Bangladesh's standing as a world leader in garment production," Moriarty said.
"We are confident that reaching a multi-stakeholder agreement is the best way to continue supporting the safety and well-being of RMG workers across Bangladesh," he added.
When asked, a BGMEA leader, preferring anonymity, said the initiative has been taken due to the absence of a local capable authority.
He, however, expressed the hope that RCC would be capable by 2019 to take all the responsibilities.