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Major Retailers to Stay the Course in Bangladesh Despite Terror

That Bangladesh was hit with two acts of terrorism within a week, and threats of more loom, isn’t deterring major retailers from sourcing there.

On July 1, attackers claiming to have acted on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) slaughtered 21 diners at upscale Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s upscale Gulshan area. Just six days later, a group of men bombed a Muslim prayer ground in the city, killing at least three.

The acts of terrorism sparked concern for the ramifications Bangladesh’s already hurting ready-made garment industry would face, but in giving its second quarter progress report on remediation Tuesday, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, an initiative centered around improving conditions in the garment sector, said its member companies will continue doing business in the country.

“Despite these unspeakable tragedies, the Alliance and our member companies will continue to stay the course—because improving safety for the millions of men and women who make a living in Bangladesh’s garment sector is a moral imperative,” James Moriarty, Alliance country director U.S. Ambassador said.

The Alliance’s 28-strong membership includes companies like Macy’s, Gap, J.C. Penney, Kate Spade, Nordstrom and Target. Beyond providing inspections, the Alliance also outlines corrective action plans (CAPs) for factory improvement and safety, technical assistance and access to low-interest financing for necessary repairs.

“As we review and update our policies to help keep our staff and contractors safe, our work to improve safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories will continue at full speed,” Moriarty continued.

With regard to remediation, the Alliance said 28 of its nearly 900 factories have completed their CAPs, and more than one-third of all factories have addressed issues most critical to life safety two years ahead of the 2018 deadline when the Alliance program will conclude.

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Those factories that haven’t achieved the same success—or little to no success at all—in upgrading safety conditions face suspension from the Alliance supply chain.

Six factories have been suspended since the end of the first quarter for failure to make adequate remediation progress, bringing the total to 83 suspended factories.

“Make no mistake—our work is achieving the big-picture goal of driving consolidation of the RMG industry in Bangladesh into safer factories,” Moriarty said.

A total of 1.2 million workers had previously been trained in fire safety, and now the Alliance is in the process of retraining its entire workforce. Security guards in all Alliance factories, some 22,000, have been trained to lead in the event of a fire or earthquake and general emergency response, which Moriarty said has already paid off.

More than 1.1 million workers in more than 770 factories also now have access to the Alliance’s confidential worker hotline, and interventions have already curbed would-be-worse incidents.

In once case, a worker called to report a factory fire in early morning hours (in an Accord, not an Alliance factory, the Alliance made sure to note) and helpline staff notified the local fire brigade, which arrived within 10 minutes to extinguish it and no one was hurt.

“I’m proud that today, these remediation and worker empowerment initiatives have made the Bangladesh RMG industry much safer than it was three years ago—and our progress is only intensifying now that remediation is underway at every Alliance factory,” Moriarty said.