Over 400 garment factories are now at a risk of losing their business, as conflicts on the garments factory safety issue have erupted once again between them and the European inspection association -- Accord.
Owners alleged that the association has set a fresh condition of installing new equipment in their factories at the end of the factory renovation process.
As a result, factory owners, after investing a large amount in the process, are now in a serious trouble with the new condition.
They also claimed the European body is refusing them to give a certificate even after many factories have been renovated in compliance with their earlier conditions.
All these allegations came on Saturday at a workshop between factory representatives and the Accord at a Gulshan hotel in the capital.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) organised the daylong workshop where Accord representatives, including its Chief Safety Inspector Stephen Quinn, were present.
At a short press session organized in between the workshop, BGMEA President Dr Rubana Huq alleged, “Accord signed a new conciliation agreement with BGMEA following a High Court order to work together, but they instead of any consultation with us are imposing new conditions.”
“If they continue taking one-sided decisions, we might move away from the original target,” she expressed her worries.
Fresh conditions one after another will never allow to complete the renovation work in the garment factories, she added.
The BGMEA president also claimed that the fire safety inspection by the Accord has been delayed due to new conditions one after the other.
As a result, exporters are losing their business with Accord’s signatory brands, she further said.
Rubana Huq, also the managing director of Mohammadi Group, said, a 60,000-gallon water reservoir for fire safety was initially made compulsory for a factory. But, they changed the rule to 75,000-gallon reservoir on August 1, 2018.
Those terms, supposed to be set earlier, are hampering the industry growth, she alleged.
“And, it is a direct violation to the spirit of collaboration between the Accord and the BGMEA,” she added.
In reply, Accord’s Chief Safety Inspector Stephen Quinn said they were only following the safety inspection protocols approved by the Accord’s steering committee.
All the equipment for the fire safety remediation in factories are costly and import-dependent. As a result, the renovation of the garment factories is being delayed, he added.
Disagreeing with Stephen, BGMEA Director Miran Al said, “We bought many equipment for fire safety and installed those in our factories. We failed in the Accord inspection. It’s a huge financial loss for us.”
Meanwhile, Dr Rubana Huq said she will have a meeting with Accord’s steering committee at Turkey on August 9 over the issue.
She said it is time they handed over their charge and went back from Bangladesh as such unclear conditions make their intention questionable.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh starts their operation in Bangladesh to ensure fire, building and structural safety after the Rana Plaza building collapse on 24 April 2013.
Over 190 brands and retailers have signed the 2018 Transition Accord with the global unions, a renewed agreement which entered into effect on 1 June 2018.
On May 8 this year, Accord got an extension on condition by the higher court for 281 working days to finish the remaining remediation process in the country’s apparel sector.
In this time, Accord and BGMEA will jointly inspect and ensure safety and security of garments factories and workers in Bangladesh.
As of now, the Accord has completed over 94 percent of remediation works.
They have provided safety certification to only 200 factories, out of 1600, which are doing business with Accord's signatory brands and retailers.
The BGMEA has established an ‘RMG Sustainability Council (RSC)’ to monitor the apparel sector in Bangladesh.
The RSC will take over the structure, operation and resources of ACCORD as it phases out from Bangladesh in the 281 days.