In an effort to focus its work on factory inspections, The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (ABWS) is relocating its main office to Dhaka, shifting the seat of its operations out of Washington, D.C.
Jeffrey Krilla, president and chief executive of ABWS, said, “In only six months’ time, we delivered on so many critical milestones, most notably standards harmonization. The transition to Dhaka is a necessary change that will keep the garment worker front and center as the organization determines how to facilitate training, implement the worker help line and partner with the government to build local capacity.” Krilla will step down from both posts but continue to act as a consultant for the group.
Under Krilla’s tutelage, the ABWS established an ambitious agenda. It is developing a more systematic means for documenting worker concerns, formulating a workers’ training program and is creating guidelines for fire and safety standards to be used by factory owners.
The ABWS will continue to maintain an office in Washington, and even to increase its staff there. However, its energies will now largely be devoted to work in Bangladesh, including factory inspections and the development of worker training programs.
Almost immediately after the Rana Plaza factory collapse, two competing consortia of retailers who outsource apparel production to factories in Bangladesh have materialized to supervise desperately needed reforms and finance expensive factory improvements. The E.U. led Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (AFBSB) has plans to inspect the approximately 1,000 factories that directly supply them with garments while the U.S. brokered Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety intends to cover another 700.
The ABWS has attracted withering criticism of its work from detractors both domestic and abroad. It has also been at odds, since its inception, with the AFBSB, which many interpret as the more aggressive reformer of the two organizations. However, last November they cooperated on the formulation of new inspection standards for factories. The wide-ranging report issues guidelines that cover fire protection construction, fire protection systems, means of egress, building materials, structural design, construction practices and safety, building services, and “human element programs,” which refers to subjects like fire drills, evacuations plans and the assignment of administrative responsibility.
Comprised of twenty-six signatories, the ABWS includes major retailers like Walmart, Gap Inc. and Target. So far it has managed to inspect 222 of the 700 factories it intends to cover.