Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday came down hard on the Accord for its intent to sever business ties with 532 garment factories for their alleged poor progress in remediation.
“We cannot accept this,” he said in a programme on compliance in Bangladesh's garment sector at The Westin hotel in Dhaka.
Some of the 532 factories are very big and compliant and are owned by the leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
The owners of the factories have already spent Tk 5 crore to Tk 30 crore for inspection and remediation of a factory. “This is so sad,” he said.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the platform of more than 200 mostly European-based retailers formed to design a safe and healthy garment industry in the country, is due to leave Bangladesh on November 30 after five and a half years.
By then, if the 532 factories are not close to completing their remediation works they would become ineligible to supply to the Accord's over 200 signatory brands.
“What progress has the Accord has made here in Bangladesh? After five years they could only handover 20 out of more than 1,600 factories they have inspected so far,” Ahmed said.
The Accord has been trying to extend its tenure for three more years to see through the remediation works in the factories it has inspected. But it has been met with dire resistance from the government and the factory owners.
“There is no chance to extend the tenure of Accord in Bangladesh anymore. The Supreme Court also said that the Accord cannot stay here after November 30.”
No industrial accident took place in Bangladesh over the last five years as the factory owners have already remediated as per the recommendations of the Accord engineers.
Ahmed went on to suggest Siddiqur Rahman, president of the BGMEA, to call an emergency meeting involving all stakeholders to take a call on the matter.
Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, also blasted the Accord.
Without having any professional registration and licence Bangladesh allowed the Accord to practice here and to improve the situation of fire safety structural integrity.
“We have done a wonderful job, but still we have to see the reckless authoritarian attitude of their initiative. We condemn them.”
Still, 70 percent of the buyers are giving low prices for the garment product, despite improvements in quality, workplace safety and labour rights, said Mohiuddin, also a former president of the BGMEA.
“The reality is very crude and difficult. So, we are requesting our buyers not to show your muscle power,” he added.
BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman urged the foreign buyers to increase the prices of garment items as they spent billions of dollars on improving factory safety.
Currently, 75 factories are in operation in Bangladesh that got the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).
USGBC has designed a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of buildings to help the owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently.
It is one of the most popular green building certification programmes used worldwide. Buildings can qualify for four levels of certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum.
Of the 75 factories with LEED certification in Bangladesh, 23 got the platinum rating, and seven of them are amongst the top 10 list for green buildings in the world, he added.
So far, the International Labour Organisation and the EU have expressed their satisfaction on the progress of inspection and remediation.
If a long-term collaboration is not struck, the battle between buyers and manufacturers will continue, said Thomas Klausen, chief executive officer of Dansk Mode & Textile.
“Brands and retailers must stop asking unrealistic and shorter delivery time. They must stop making the last-minute changes,” he added.
Earlier, a total of 722 workers from 10 factories were trained on how to improve their productivity under a project called 'Step Up' of the BGMEA and Danish Mode & Textile.
BGMEA and Danish Mode and Textile took the Step Up in October in 2015 and announced its closure yesterday at The Westin.
Refika Hayta, deputy head of mission of Royal Danish Embassy in Bangladesh, and Pia Odgaard, head of CSR of Dansk Mode & Textile, also spoke.