The RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) on Monday took over the functions of Accord as the extended tenure of the western retailers’ platform finally ended on Sunday.
Ready-made garment (RMG) manufacturers, global brands and retailers, global unions and their Bangladeshi affiliates have established this new national initiative to carry forward the significant accomplishments made on workplace safety in Bangladesh.
The RSC in a statement issued on Monday said it will continue with factory inspections, remediation monitoring, safety training and an independent safety and health complaints mechanism available to workers in RMG factories.
Accord, a platform of more than 220 mostly European brands, buyers and trade unions, was formed immediately after the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013 for five years, which ended in May 2018.
Later, the government allowed a six-month extension to the Accord until November 30, 2018. In May 2019, the Supreme Court allowed the Accord to continue its activities for 281 more days after it signed a memorandum of understanding with the BGMEA.
Monday’s statement added that RSC will initially conduct its workplace safety programmes at more than 1600 RMG factories covered under the Accord, but it is envisaged to eventually cover all RMG exporting garment factories.
The RSC also aims at encompassing industrial relations, skills development and environmental standards, the statement said adding since mid-2013, Bangladeshi RMG factories have made significant improvements in workplace safety.
More than 1200 Accord covered factories have completed more than 90 per cent of the remediation of their Corrective Actions Plans.
Through the work of the RSC, covered factories will be able to complete their CAPs and ensure that all outstanding safety issues are remediated and verified as correctly fixed, and that the labour-management Safety Committees in the factories are equipped and empowered to monitor and address workplace safety on a daily basis.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Rubana Huq said “The RSC is an unprecedented national initiative and through our collective efforts with the brands and trade unions we will make sure that Bangladesh remains one of the safest countries to source RMG products from.”
Ms Huq and IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) general secretary China Rahman are representing the RSC Board of Directors as industry and trade unions.
Ms Rahman said “Together with our Bangladeshi trade union affiliates we will help ensure workers in RMG factories have safe workplaces and have access to remedy to address safety concerns and exercise the right to safe workplaces. We will work to ensure that workers to have trust in the newly established RSC”
Roger Hubert from H&M and brand representative on the RSC said with the establishment of the RSC, brands can continue to honour their supply chain responsibilities that they have committed to through the Accord signed with the trade unions.
“The RSC will provide the assurance that workplace safety will continue to be addressed throughout out Bangladeshi RMG supply chain,” he added.
The RMG industry is facing unprecedented times with the COVID-19 pandemic which has had a dramatic impact on the RMG industry in Bangladesh and all entities and people associated with the industry, the statement said.
As the RSC embarks on its work, one of the first issues it will need to address is the safe resumption of the office and field based work of its mandate.
The RSC further urged all re-opened RMG factories to implement necessary measures to mitigate COVID-19 exposure and keep the factory workers as safe as possible.
The RSC expressed hope and confident that its unique structure and commitment to collaboration will further advance a safe, healthy, and sustainable RMG industry in Bangladesh which can serve as a model for the world.