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Retailers may water down factory inspection standards

Jyrki Raina

Jyrki Raina

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a platform of 150 clothing retailers and brands, mostly European, will be flexible in inspections in some cases, as garment makers are saying the standards are too strict, said a top official of IndustriALL Global Union.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, a federation of global trade unions, said garment makers opposed some clauses of the standards on the onset of inspection as those are expensive and difficult to follow.

Engineers hired by the Accord began factory inspections last week and will complete initial inspections of 1,600 factories by the end of September. After the Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse, IndustriALL initiated the Accord that has so far been signed by 150 retailers and brands.

“We will be flexible in inspections, as garment makers have been complaining about some of the clauses, especially setting up the sprinkler system in the factories. We will allow more time in inspection, but we will never compromise on the safety of the workers,??? Raina said in an interview with The Daily Star in Dhaka on Saturday.

The standards have been set in line with the National Action Plan (NAP), Bangladesh’s factory inspection code, but without consulting the government, he said.

On financing the factory renovations after inspection, Raina said the retailers will have to pay more to the garment makers to source items from the factories. The garment makers will also bear costs from their profits, he added.

“Basically, whatever the situation, the retailers will have to pay more to buy t-shirts from Bangladesh and they cannot leave Bangladesh in the next five years.???

The retailers are bound to stay with the garment makers until inspections are completed in the next five years, as they have signed the legally binding Accord on May 13 last year.

If any factory building requires renovation, operations may stop for some months and the workers will become unemployed; but the workers will receive their salaries that will be paid by the retailers and garment makers, said Raina. “The workers will not lose anything during an absence of work.???

The initial costs for factory repairs will be borne by the manufacturers, and Raina warned them to be transparent in spending the money received in additional prices from the retailers.

The total cost of factory repairs will cross $3 billion in five years, according to a preliminary estimate.

The highest contribution by the retailers has been fixed at $500,000 and the lowest at $1,000 a year over the next five years, according to rules of the Accord. Some retailers have already paid their annual contribution since July last year, he said.

The money from this fund will be spent mainly for three purposes—administrative, training and inspection; $12 million has been fixed for administrative purposes alone every year, said Raina.

The Bangladesh government has nothing to do with financing in the fund, although it is part of the Accord, he added.

“We also have plans to pay the compensation money to victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse before the first anniversary of the incident that took place on April 24 last year.??? He says the compensation will be paid according to the convention of International Labour Organisation.

In addition, he criticised the government-appointed committee’s recommendations as it suggested the highest of Tk 14.5 lakh for the family of a dead worker, which is half of the compensation package recommended by ILO.

So far, only four companies that sourced garments from the five factories in the building committed to contributing to the compensation fund; a total of 29 companies used to source garments from the five factories at the time of collapse.
“We will name and shame the factories that do not want contribute to the $40 million compensation fund.???

Raina is optimistic about the future of the garments industry in Bangladesh. “Once inspections are completed successfully, the image of the sector will be brighter to the world and more buyers will come to Bangladesh with more work orders. The workers will feel safe and the business will be more sustainable.???

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Report: Refayet Ullah Mirdha

Source: Daily Star

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