Some 19 factories have so far been shut down following recommendations from engineers of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, the platform of mainly European brands.
The Accord recommended for closure of some 31 factories in 14 buildings but the government-appointed review panel allowed partial operation in seven of the factories and full operation in five after immediate corrective measures by the owners.
Syed Ahmed, inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, said the review panel members visited the factories upon recommendation from the Accord engineers and allowed operations if there were “not so big problems”.
Alan Roberts, executive director of the Accord's international operations, ruled out any plan to set up a fund to disburse among factory owners for building renovations.
“The Accord does, however, require all brands to work with factory owners to ensure that there is adequate financial support in place to carry out the relevant remediation. This is a clear requirement within the Accord, which is itself a legally binding agreement.”
He said the platform has so far carried out over 960 inspections and have published over 100 inspection reports and the relevant corrective action plans on line.
Accord, which started its factory inspection on February 20, still has 640 factories to assess by the end of September though.
Meanwhile, Alliance, the platform of 26 US-based retailers which concurrently ran its inspection rounds of the factories its members source from, advised closure of seven of the 600 factories it evaluated.
The platform also formed a $100 million fund to disburse among the garment owners for building renovations.
Its members provided basic fire safety training to more than one million workers and managers and began offering financial compensation to the workers displaced by factory closures for up to four months.
“Together, the Alliance and our partners are steadily achieving progress that will have a lasting, positive impact on factory workers, the readymade garment industry and the country's economy as a whole,” said Ellen Tauscher, former US Congresswoman and Alliance independent chair.
“Much work remains to be done, but we are steadfastly committed to staying the course, working in partnership, ensuring transparency and helping achieve a new, sustainable standard for safe workplaces in Bangladesh.”
In addition to completing rigorous inspections, the Alliance has placed special emphasis on initiatives designed to protect and empower workers.
These include the appointment of a committee to advise on all labour-related issues and the initial rollout of a helpline to which workers can anonymously report concerns without any fear of reprisal.
In partnership with factory owners, the Alliance has paid wages to more than 1,000 workers displaced by factory remediation efforts.
“Substantial challenges must be overcome in order to achieve our goals in the Bangladesh garment industry,” said Mesbah Rabin, managing director of Alliance.
As the hard work of remediation now begins, it is important that all stakeholders to do their part to ensure a safer industry for everyone, he added.