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DHAKA – The Bangladeshi government has been warned that apparel brands may reconsider sourcing decisions if the Bangladesh Accord is pushed out of the country prematurely. Bangladesh’s State minister for labour and employment, Mujibul Haque Chunnu, recently said he wants the Bangladesh Accord and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety out of the country by December 2018.

However, a statement by the Bangladesh Accord, on behalf of more than 180 brands which have signed the 2018 Transition Accord, has warned that the, “premature shut down of the Accord, leaving workers in unsafe circumstances, would jeopardise the brands’ ability to source from a safe industry and may make them reconsider sourcing decisions and review the reputational risk of Bangladesh as a sourcing country.”

The statement urged the Bangladeshi Government to ensure the Accord operations in Bangladesh continue until the Government of Bangladesh’s own safety unit, the Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC), is deemed ready by the multi-stakeholder Transition Monitoring Committee.

The Accord said in a statement: “It is in the crucial interest of the signatories to the Accord that the work of remediation which started in May 2013 is completed and a sustainable and adequate national regulatory structure is implemented by the Bangladesh Government to regulate workplace safety in the Bangladeshi garment industry.

“In the last 5 years, the Accord has delivered a robust, high quality, transparent, inclusive system, and it has made substantial progress to achieve the safety of workers in Bangladesh’s most important export industry. But the work is not yet completed and the national structure, notwithstanding assertions to the contrary, is not yet prepared to credibly take over the work of the Accord.

“A solution towards the 2018 Transition Accord (2018 TA) was achieved in October 2017 through meetings of the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), the BGMEA, and brand and union signatory representatives of the 2018 TA. Through this solution, Accord operations would continue in Bangladesh beyond May 2018 and a Transition Monitoring Committee; with representatives of the GoB, BGMEA, Accord signatory brands and unions, and the ILO, would be established to assess the preparedness of the national remediation structure to sustainably take over the work of the Accord.

“The Accord signatories and especially the brands called on the EU, US, Canada and the ILO to request from their Bangladesh partners in the Sustainability Compact to express the support of the GoB for the previously agreed arrangements to establish this Transition Monitoring Committee. Only when this assessment body deems the RCC ready to take over responsibilities for the safety of workers based on previously agreed objective criteria should the Accord wind down its activities.”

The statement by the Accord is the clearest evidence yet of the strain between the Bangladeshi Government and the Bangladesh Accord, with the former regularly suggesting its ready-made-garment industry is now the safest in the world, and bemoaning the fact that other competing garment hubs are not being placed under the same scrutiny.

Amy McGann, Foreign Affairs Officer, United States Department of State, also commented on the current preparedness of the RCC. He said: “Currently there is no alternative to the Accord and Alliance. The Remediation Coordination Cell only began one year ago and is not fully-staffed yet. As we saw from the Alliance and the Accord, it takes years to develop a fully functional safety organisation. It is not surprising that the RCC is not quite ready to take on the work.”

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