Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) is set to constitute RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) in the next three months to monitor work environment in the export-oriented garment factories, RMG insiders have said.
They said it would be a tripartite initiative which will include garments owners, local and international labour organisations, foreign brand and buyers.
Under the council, listed factories of the European buyers’ alliance Accord and the abolished North American buyers’ Alliance would be inspected. The remaining factories will come under the purview of the council. Alongside inspection of electrical, structural and fire safety flaws, RSC will look into labour rights and factory environment.
“We want to establish our own monitoring system. Representatives of brand and retailers also want it,” BGMEA president Rubana Huq told Prothom Alo.
She also said under RSC, all decisions will be taken on the consensus of garments factory owners, labour organisations and brand representatives. In case of failure, the matter will be referred to the government, she added.
Sources said Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) is failing to manage the remediation process for RMG factories. It lacks the competence to take over the responsibility of Accord.
RCC was constituted by the initiative of International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE). Alliance wrapped up its activities in December last. But its 21 members brand fashion and retailers have constituted a new organisation titled ‘Nirapon’. Nirapon began functioning last month.
BGMEA started the process to constitute RSC to move away from Accord and Alliance, sources said.
Accord has reportedly accepted the move to constitute RSC. Accord signed a MoU with BGMEA. Accord, earlier, got 281 days to conduct its activities in Bangladesh. As per the MoU, it will hand over its responsibilities to RSC before the end of 281 days.
During the interim period of Accord, BGMEA will establish a unit in Dhaka and it will start next month. Without the consent of the unit of BGMEA, Accord will not be able to sever business relations with any factory.
Rubana Huq said this unit will work as RSC in future.
“After the passing of 281 days, manpower, office and furniture of Accord will come under RSC. Nirapon will also be brought under the council. Factories outside BGMEA and BKMEA will be made visible under RSC. If a factory catches fire, it has a negative impact on the entire RMG sector,” she said.
She said it is yet to be estimated how much funds would be required to run RSC. Letters would be sent to brand and donor organisations for fund.
After the collapse of Rana Plaza building on 24 April 2013, which killed over 1,100 people, Accord and Alliance were formed for five years to improve work environment of garments factories. They inspected over 2000 factories and detect various flaws. Accord was supposed to end its activities in May last year. Before ending its tenure, it announced that it would continue activities till 2021. Through a court order, it got 281 days on condition.
Asked about RSC, private research organisation Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) research director Golam Moazzem said, “We were in favour of a transparent and accountable organisation which would be acceptable at home and abroad. We are hopeful it is initiated by the private orgtanisation.”
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam