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Bangladesh Alliance Says it’s Leaving its Garment Factories “Dramatically Improved”

The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety says it’s “leaving a legacy of safety” in the Bangladesh garment sector.

In its fifth and final annual report, the safety-focused organization supported by U.S. brands including Walmart, VF Corp. and Target, said it’s leaving the country having reached “near completion of factory safety improvements.”

During its five-year tenure—the start of which was marked by the Rana Plaza tragedy that killed more than 1,100 workers when a factory filled building collapsed—the Alliance oversaw 93 percent of remediations across its 654 affiliated factories. A total of 428 factories completed their initial Corrective Action Plans, which included fixes to things like fire safety and exit routes. Nearly 1.6 million workers have been trained in fire safety, more than 28,000 security guards have also been trained in fire safety and emergency evacuations, and more than 1.5 million workers in 1,017 factories now have access to the Alliance’s 24-hour confidential worker helpline, where they can report any workplace concerns.

“In these past five years, the Alliance, our member brands and the owners of Alliance-affiliated factories have achieved unprecedented progress toward the goal of improving safety in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry, while simultaneously helping to solidify Bangladesh’s standing as a global leader in garment exports,” Alliance executive director Ambassador Jim Moriarty said in a statement. “Maintaining this progress must remain an ongoing effort—and for our member brands, it will remain a top priority long beyond the Alliance’s departure.”

The Alliance’s tenure was always slated to wrap this year, and the organization will work its way out of the country as Bangladesh looks to replace the Alliance’s factory safety improvement efforts with its own newly formed Remediation Coordination Cell. The Alliance’s counterpart, however, the U.K.-backed Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh has been putting up a fight with the country’s High Court to stay on until the Remediation Coordination Cell is better established to take over the improvement initiatives, for fear that a lack of oversight in the sector could see compliance wane and brands back out.

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“Beginning in 2019, most Alliance member brands plan to work through a locally-based organization to collectively monitor safety in the factories from which they source,” Moriarty said in the annual report.

The news comes in line with less positive happenings in the country, where as many as 50 factories have been shuttered for days as workers protest over wages.

A new monthly minimum wage rate of 8,000 taka ($95)—a 51 percent increase over the current 5,300 taka ($63)—is set to take effect on Jan. 1, and though lower than what workers had been seeking, their current concern is that factory owners may not be ready to pay once the New Year arrives.