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Bangladesh Safety Accord Begins Transfer of Responsibility to Government Body

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is finally ceding its jurisdiction to a national regulatory body.

The transfer of responsibility began on Monday and will continue until Nov. 30, according to the joint-stakeholder Transitional Monitoring Committee (TMC), which jump-started the process by handing over 25 fully remediated factories to the government-formed Remediation Coordination Cell.

The original five-year agreement, which was forged in the aftermath of the deadly 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse, has managed the remediation of hundreds of garment factories in the South Asian nation since its inception. Its 220 signatories, some of which had sourced clothing from the multi-factory facility, amounted to a veritable who’s who of the apparel world, including Arcadia Group (which operates Topshop and Topman), Adidas, C&A, Fast Retailing (Uniqlo), H&M, Marks & Spencer, Mango and Inditex (Zara).

Following the disaster, accord inspectors spent the next five years inspecting more than 1,800 factories and identifying more than 118,500 fire, electrical and structural hazards. By early 2018, some 142 facilities have completed all remediation measures from initial inspections, as per the Accord. Another 767 factories had completed more than 90 percent of safety efforts.

Because the remediation rate continued to hover at 85 percent, however, the parties of the Accord negotiated an extension for the transfer of power, which had been slated to occur in May.

That month saw the formation of the TMC, which determined that the terms for the “agreed conditions for a handover of the Accord work to a fully functional and competent national regulatory body” had not been met.

“These criteria include: demonstrated proficiency in inspection capacity, remediation of hazards, enforcement of the law against non-compliant factories, full transparency of governance and remediation progress, and investigation and fair resolution of workers’ safety complaints,” the Accord noted in a statement.

A new Transition Accord also went into effect, albeit with some notable holdouts, such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Sean John Apparel and IKEA. It will be in effect until 2021. 

The rival—and less legally binding—Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which was established by 17 North American apparel retailers, including Gap and Walmart, says it will withdraw from Bangladesh after its transition period ends in November.