In a divergence from the International Labor Rights Forum’s recent report noting that labor issues still plague ready-made garment workers in Bangladesh, the country’s commerce minister said workers are content and factory conditions are up to snuff.
After the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, two organizations formed to help quell substandard garment sector conditions: The European-led Accord on Fire and Building Safety for Bangladesh with signatories including Inditex, H&M and Fast Retailing, and the U.S. Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety that brands like Gap, Macy’s and VF Corporation support.
Each program was slated for a five-year run, during which both promised to inspect its member factories and aid remediation efforts. Combined, the Accord and Alliance inspected more than 2,000 factories in addition to the government’s 1,475 inspections.
But despite the added audit help, Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said neither program would be extended after its scheduled 2018 end.
Speaking at the inauguration of an international exhibition on building and fire safety in Dhaka last week, the minister said garment factories in Bangladesh have undergone a transformation.
“Most of the factories are now ‘compliant’ [with standards set for them]. Workers are working in a safe and job-friendly environment. Fire and building safety have greatly improved. Workers are happy with the safe working environment,” BD News 24 reported Ahmed as saying.
The Tazreen factory fire and Rana Plaza building collapse gave the world the wrong impression about Bangladesh, he continued.
But Bangladesh’s image has since been improved thanks to government and private initiatives, Ahmed said, and exports are gaining ground. In short, he implied, neither the Accord nor Alliance are needed in the new and improved Bangladesh.
Ahmed said many countries don’t allow any outside parties to inspect their factories and foreigners are hardly given visas to do so.
“But in our country we have Alliance and Accord,” Ahmed said according to BD News. “They are trying to have their terms extended. But that will not be allowed. They will not get even a day’s extension.”