Alliance shocked by Muhith's comments
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, the platform of 26 North American retailers, has expressed disbelief over Finance Minister AMA Muhith's disparaging comments on its efforts to improve the safety and sustainability of the country's garment sector.
In a meeting with garment exporters at his secretariat in Dhaka last week, Muhith said the rigorous inspection by the two foreign agencies -- Accord and Alliance -- is an attempt to stunt the progress of Bangladesh's garment sector.
“It is like, 'Bangladesh you have progressed a lot, do not progress anymore, now it's the time to pause',” the minister said, while terming the two agencies “a noose around the neck”.
“I am truly shocked that a member of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's cabinet would criticise efforts aimed at ensuring safety in the garment sector,” Ellen Tauscher, independent chair of the Alliance, said in a statement.
She said comments like those attributed to the finance minister and other officials in the country raise serious and significant concerns about the commitment of the government to this unprecedented and private sector-led safety initiative.
“I am hopeful that the government of Bangladesh will clarify its position and demonstrate its unequivocal support for the Alliance and other initiatives aimed at ensuring the safety of its people and the sustainability of its economy.”
In 2013, the Alliance committed to provide $50 million over a five-year period to its sourcing factories -- whose tally is more than 600 -- for the purpose of upgrading their fire and safety measures to international standards.
As of now, the North American agency has inspected all the factories and is now working to implement corrective action plans and assist factory owners with remediation efforts.
When temporary closure due to remediation of a factory is necessary, the Alliance pays 50 percent of each factory worker's salary for up to four months, with the remaining 50 percent covered by the factory owner, Tauscher said.
She said the Alliance is also empowering factory workers by training them on safety measures and providing them with a voice to refuse unsafe work.
“This commitment is strong but limited to five years. The government of Bangladesh must demonstrate a strong commitment to this effort to ensure the sustainability of the reforms achieved by the Alliance and other initiatives.”