Signatories to the Accord on Bangladesh Building and Fire Safety have expressed concerns over the readiness of the Bangladeshi government to ensure the welfare of workers in garment factories across the country, as a handover of responsibility looms.
The accord was set up in the wake of the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, when a building housing several garment factories collapsed, killing 1,133 workers.
The legally-binding five-year initiative was set to expire in May 2018, but in 2017 the Bangladeshi government agreed to extend it to 31 May 2021, at which point the accord’s remit would be transferred to a national regulatory body.
However, the government said its regulatory body, the Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC), is ready to assume responsibility for monitoring standards in the 1,688 factories currently overseen by the accord.
It has applied to Bangladesh’s Appellate Court to close the Accord’s office and operations in Dhaka. A ruling is expected on 7 April.
Signatories to the accord have hit out at the move, arguing that the government is not ready.
The Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Maquila Solidarity Network and Worker Rights Consortium have released new research, which claims the government databases on garment factories are inconsistent and fail to provide information regarding follow-up inspections.
While the accord has overseen safety improvements in 1,688 factories that produce clothing for brands such as H&M and Primark, the Bangladeshi government has been responsible for 745 other factories.
The research found that these 745 factories have yet to eliminate ”high-risk” safety hazards identified more than three years ago. These include lockable exits, which could leave workers trapped in the event of a fire.
The government has the power to close factories that put workers’ immediate safety at risk, and the accord has identified 114 such cases. Over half of these remain open, it alleges.
The accord is calling for inspection and remediation work to be passed to a credible national regulatory agency.
The Bangladeshi government has been contacted for comment.