More than half of the Accord-inspected 1,600 garment factories have not installed adequate fire detection and prevention system yet, according to latest findings. On the sixth Tazreen factory fire anniversary, advocacy group Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) revealed this, findings urging the Bangladesh government to support the Accord’s appeal to lift the restraining order. Another rights group-Industriall Global Union-announced that the transition Accord signed by nearly 200 global fashion brands and retailers will run its activities from Amsterdam office in case of failure to operate in Bangladesh.” Grave concerns remain, as for example 56 per cent of the factories without proper fire alarm still fail to have adequate systems in place,” the campaign group said in a statement issued.

Besides, Accord in its latest progress report, said some 45 per cent of its inspected factories have so far installed fire detection and prevention system. Upon starting work in 2013, Accord engineers found that 97 per cent of the over 1,600 factories under its purview had no safe emergency exits and 91 per cent had no adequate fire detection or alarm system. Five years later, 97 per cent of lockable or collapsible gates have been removed and in total 74 per cent of all found fire safety defects have been corrected, with another 12 per cent still pending verification, the campaign group noted. The Accord, however, said until November 01, about 90 per cent of the initially identified safety flaws including fire, electrical and structural issues have been corrected. Citing the deadly Tazreen factory fire that killed at least 112 workers, it said though workers eventually tried to flee, they found out that gates were locked, no emergency exits while windows on lower floor were barred.”

“Bangladesh is moving fast towards a situation in which factories could quickly return to the death traps that they were in 2012,” it noted. The announced forced closure of the Bangladesh Accord’s domestic office operations later this month threatens to undermine the positive developments of the last five years and to plunge the country back into a situation in which workers will have to fear for their lives when entering their workplace, the CCC said. Ineke Zeldenrust of Clean Clothes Campaign said, “The progress reached on fire safety by the Bangladesh Accord is under severe threat now that its Bangladesh office operations might be closed after November 30.” This will impair the Accord’s ability to inspect and monitor factories in Bangladesh and violates previous agreements that Accord would remain fully operational until domestic institutions have the technical capacity and the political will to perform inspections and ensure remediation, she explained.” The risk of new factory tragedies looms large, which is a reputational and legal risk for brands, but in which workers pay the largest price of all: Their lives,” Zeldenrust added.

If the Accord is prevented from having an office in Bangladesh, it will continue to run from Amsterdam. The legally-binding provisions for the transition Accord signed by almost 200 global fashion brands and retailers with unions will remain in place. Jenny Holdcroft, Industriall Global Union Assistant General Secretary said. Despite immense progress, the work of the Accord is not complete, she said adding the Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) is not ready to take on the rigorous safety monitoring system currently implemented by the Accord.

When asked, Md Siddiqur Rahman President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said initially it was agreed that Accord would provide remediation completion certificate after fixing the flaws identified in initial inspection. Accord engineers have been putting new findings in follow-up or verification inspections and the 45 per cent progress might be the result of such new recommendations or the platforms pending verification, he noted. Echoing his business colleague, Md Hatem, Vice President of the Exporters Association of Bangladesh, said operating from Amsterdam would create further hassle, which the platform might be doing to stay in Bangladesh. They should hand over the activities to the cell and each buyer also then can follow up, he noted.