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Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety opens Dhaka office

From left, Heather Cruden, high commissioner of Canada, Jeffrey Krilla, president of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, Atiqul Islam, president of BGMEA, Mikail Shipar, labour secretary, and Ali Ahmed Khan, director general of Bangladesh Fire Service, attend the launch of the alliance’s office in Dhaka yesterday. Photo:Star

From left, Heather Cruden, high commissioner of Canada, Jeffrey Krilla, president of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, Atiqul Islam, president of BGMEA, Mikail Shipar, labour secretary, and Ali Ahmed Khan, director general of Bangladesh Fire Service, attend the launch of the alliance’s office in Dhaka yesterday. Photo:Star

The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety yesterday opened its office in Dhaka to supervise efforts in improving safety standards in the garment industry.

The group of 26 retailers, mostly North American, launched its country office to lead on-the-ground implementation of its initiative, said Jeffrey Krilla, president of the group.

“We believe that our principles of commitment, collaboration, transparency and accountability will help us achieve unprecedented gains in improving fire and building safety in Bangladesh,??? he said at the launching ceremony at The Westin Dhaka.

The group was formed five months ago in response to pressures on international buyers sourcing from Bangladesh to step up and help improve working conditions in the apparel industry.

Krilla said tragic events such as the Rana Plaza building collapse are unacceptable and led to formation of the alliance. “No one — no matter where they live or what their job is — should have to put their life at risk in order to make a living.???
“This is an unprecedented effort to dramatically improve garments factory safety conditions in Bangladesh.???

Under the alliance, which includes companies such as Wal-Mart and Gap, the brands have pledged $50 million towards inspection and worker safety initiatives for the next five years.

Another $100 million will also be available in loans and access to capital to assist factory owners in making safety improvements, said Krilla.

The initiative includes an aggressive timetable for inspection of the 100 percent alliance member factories within the first year, the public release of inspection results, approval of a common set of factory safety standards, safety training for factory managers and worker empowerment initiatives.

The alliance plans to set up a hotline to help workers to report safety concerns anonymously.

“We will use the power of the alliance to find other sources of funds to support additional infrastructure improvements.???
The alliance would use third-party experts to verify the activities of its members under the initiative, he added.
The alliance has already conducted safety inspections at more than 50 percent of about 700 factories used by its members, with the remaining inspections to be completed by July next year.

“We have developed a safety training curriculum for factory managers and employees and 25 percent of the alliance factories have undergone fire safety training.???

The alliance will host an international exposition on building and fire safety in Dhaka in February next year.
Development partners, garment factory leaders and government officials welcomed the opening of the office.
“This is an important step in fulfilling the alliance’s commitment and mandate to improve safe working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment sector,??? said Heather Cruden, high commissioner of Canada to Bangladesh.

“With an operation base in Dhaka, the alliance will be better positioned to undertake and monitor its factory inspections and ensure appropriate follow-up.???

She said the garment sector in Bangladesh has reached a defining moment. “The sector is in the spotlight and under international scrutiny more than ever before. The opportunity is before us all to change the negative storyline of Bangladesh’s garment sector to an inspiring one.???

Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar said the new office would help ensure transparency and accountability at the garment factories on the issue of safety.

He also detailed the recent developments aimed at improving building and fire safety in the sector, including amending the labour laws, providing registration to 72 trade unions since January and launching factory inspection by the government in association with International Labour Organisation.

ILO Country Director Srinivas Reddy said: “We have to ensure the rights of the workers in the interest of everybody. All factories in Bangladesh will have to be safe for the workers.???

Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, pleaded with the alliance to help Bangladeshi suppliers get higher prices for garment exports.

Mohammad Hatem, acting president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and Ali Ahmed Khan, director general of Fire Service and Civil Defence, and M Rabin, managing director of the alliance country office, also spoke.

– http://www.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/retailers-alliance-beefs-up-factory-safety-effort/

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