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Coalition Warns Sourcing in Bangladesh Could Suffer Without Accord Extension

A coalition of stakeholders is urging the Bangladesh government to ensure ongoing Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh operations until the incoming Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) is deemed ready to take over industry oversight. Without an extension of the Accord, sourcing in Bangladesh could suffer.

The Accord said this week that on June 25, representatives met in Brussels to discuss progress made under the compact and what remains to be accomplished. This was the fourth time since the signing of the compact in July 2013 that such an assessment of progress took place. Representatives from European Union, U.S. and Canadian governments, International Labor Organization and signatory brands and unions that are part of the Accord, are all part of the conversation.

While some progress has been made in Bangladesh, notably on safety compliance, the Accord said there’s a general acknowledgement among different stakeholders and representatives in the sector that the RCC is still in its earliest stages of development there’ll be some need to bridge the gap until it’s fully ready to be implemented.

“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,” representatives of the more than 180 signatory brands that signed the 2018 Transition Accord said. “The premature shutdown of the Accord, leaving workers in unsafe circumstances, would jeopardize 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.”

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The Accord came about after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April 2013 claimed the lives of more than 1,100 workers, injuring 2,500 more. The aim was to police the conditions in the sector and help factories with remediation efforts to get them up to par. In the last five years since its inception, the Accord has delivered what signatories and partners said is “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.”

And the country can’t afford for there to be a gap in the continuation of that effort.

“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,” Amy McGann, Foreign Affairs Officer at the State Department, said. “As we saw from the Alliance and the Accord, it takes years to develop a fully functional safety organization. It is not surprising that the RCC is not quite ready to take on the work.”

U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bloom Bernicat has urged the Bangladesh government to “maintain a collaborative approach to the Accord as it continues to assess when, not if, it can transition to a Bangladesh-led program.” She said, “It is critical to the safety of millions of workers and the productivity of factories that that assessment should be made fairly and objectively, and without artificial time deadlines.”

The Accord has committed to offering full support for the national efforts to install a robust national remediation structure. Stakeholders called on the government to take the Accord up on its offer, and work alongside leaders of the 2018 Transition Accord to prepare the RCC to enforce workplace health and safety regulations and standards to the benefit of millions of workers in the ready-made garment sector.