The government has formed a joint monitoring committee comprised of representatives of brands and buyers, International Labour Organisation, garment factory owners and trade unions to evaluate the status of factory remediation work under Accord and Alliance and the readiness of national regulatory body to take over post-remediation monitoring from the buyers’ platforms. The committee, namely Transition Monitoring Committee, for the country’s export-oriented readymade garment sector was formed on Thursday, five months after deciding to form such a platform to take over factory safety monitoring from the two western buyers’ platforms. The labour Ministry formed the nine-member committee headed by labour Secretary Afroza Khan. A labour Ministry Joint Secretary, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association President Md Siddiqur Rahman, Vice-President Mahmud Hasan Khan Babu, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association Vice-President Monsur Ahmed, LC Waikiki head of overseas sourcing offices Edward Southall, H&M’s Karl Gunnar Fagerlin and IndustriALL Bangladesh Council Secretary General Md Towhidur Rahman were included as members.
Labour Ministry Senior Assistant Secretary Farhana Islam will work as member Secretary of the committee, according to a Ministry circular. In the immediate aftermath of Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013 that caused deaths of over 1,100 people, mostly garment workers, EU retailers formed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh while North American retailers formed the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety undertaking a five-year plan which set timeframes and accountability for inspections and training and workers’ empowerment programmes. The five-year tenure of the initiatives would expire in June this year. According to the Ministry officials, the committee will evaluate whether the national body is ready to take over the garment sector responsibility from Accord and Alliance. If the Transition Monitoring Committee finds that all the conditions for handing over are met, then the platforms will transfer its functions to the national regulatory body. Otherwise, the tenure of the platforms would be extended by six months. In June 2017, global trade union federations announced a new deal Accord 2018, which in effect will carry on the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh’s remediation activities after May 2018 when the current Accord expires.
The government and factory owners strongly opposed the extension and termed it a unilateral decision. The government, factory owners and Accord steering committee members on October 17 last year held a meeting on the extension issue at Bangladesh Secretariat in Dhaka, where all the parties agreed to form a joint monitoring committee for the evaluation of the government’s readiness for taking over the responsibility. The meeting also decided that a transition accord would enter into effect in May 2018 unless the joint monitoring committee unanimously agreed that a set of rigorous conditions for the handover to a national body were met.
The conditions include demonstrated proficiency in inspection capacity, remediation of hazards, and enforcement of the law against non-compliant factories, full transparency of governance and remediation progress, and investigation and fair resolution of workers’ safety complaints. The meeting also decided that the joint monitoring body would review the progress towards meeting these conditions on a biannual basis. ‘When the joint monitoring committee agrees the conditions for handover have been met, there will be a further transition period of six months, after which the local body would assume responsibility for factories now covered by the Accord,’ the Accord said in a press release following the meeting. The Alliance said that they were ready for transition, but if the government failed to set-up a competent body to oversee the post-remediation safety activities the North American brands and buyers might form an independent platform to monitor the activities after the expiry of the Alliance in June this year.