While the Accord and Alliance came into effect in 2013, recent amendments seem to be driving workplace changes effectively in the RMG sector in Bangladesh. For example, brands/ retailers/buyers and international trade unions are involved in ensuring workplace safety at the manufacturers’ end. Secondly, local entrepreneurs now have as a requirement high level of safety standards and maintenance at their own factories. Thirdly, local public agencies have appreciated the gaps in monitoring and enforcement mechanism that they follow and also the requirement of improvement of their process and lastly, workers of RMG enterprises have become cognizant of safety-related issues and concerns and how to respond in case of emergencies in factories.
As the Accord and Alliance initiatives are going to end in 2018, it needs to be seen if recent remediation activities can extend the scope of the alliance. Accord is willing to extend their operation beyond the limited time but Alliance is not willing to extend their contract. In 2017, a new body was formed under the Directorate of Inspection of Factory Establishments (DIFE) of the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) with a view to oversee the progress of remediation-related activities of, initially, factories under the National Initiatives and later other factories including those under Accord and Alliance. The creation of a Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) is important for a public agency to take charge; at the same time, this set-up is expected to deliver the services maintaining the quality and standards.
As per their Accord and Alliance reports, a significant number of problems have been remediated by the factories. In case of Accord-inspected factories, 85.4 per cent of electrical, 76.4 per cent of firerelated and 65.4 per cent of structural problems have been addressed while the respective shares in case of Allianceinspected factories are 89 per cent, 85 per cent and 78 per cent, respectively. In both cases, factories are relatively slow in remediating structural problems because of difficulty in addressing their concerns. Additionally, Accord and Alliance have taken initiatives to increase awareness among workers about the safety standards of factories by setting up safety committees at the enterprise levels as well as introducing hotline for workers. These initiatives have provided a strong supplementary role in addressing the safety concerns at the factories.
There needs to be strengthening the monitoring and inspection capacity of public agencies. Given the limited capacity in terms of human resources, technical issues and database management, public agencies need to prepare themselves under a targeted timeline with specific objectives and action plans. The RCC has been formed with the long-term objective to inspect factories maintaining global standards. Hence RCC needs to be equipped with competent human resources, technologies, skills, logistics, testing facilities, adequate resources and database management system.