Factories under the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety have completed 72% of all required repairs almost four years since the collapse of Rana Plaza in which 1,134 people died.
To date, the Alliance has suspended 142 factories for failing to make adequate progress on remediation, while 71 factories have completed their Corrective Action Plans. The Alliance covers 676 active factories with around 1.2 million workers.
It was formed in 2013 as a legally binding, five-year commitment to improve safety in Bangladeshi ready-made garment factories.
Bangladesh Alliance country director James Moriarty said he expected the number of completions to more than double within the next few months, as he updated the industry on its progress at a press conference in Bangladesh yesterday. Of the repairs completed, 64% were high priority.
The organisation started a new training programme that taught almost 1.3 million workers how to protect themselves in case of emergency in 2014. It has now retrained 85% of the Alliance workforce to ensure that new employees are covered and that the skills are up to date.
Its confidential hotline, Amader Kotha, is available 24 hours a day and has received more than 125,000 calls to date on issues ranging from wage disputes to concerns about structural safety.
In January, Moriarty said 12 workers from a six-storey Alliance factory called the helpline to report that factory management had begun construction to rectify pillars on the ground floor.
“The workers were quite concerned, because the building had started to shake, and cracks had begun to form in the walls,” he explained.
A team from the Alliance attended and found that management had not established an adequate propping system before starting the retrofitting.
It ordered the factory to halt construction until proper support systems were installed and retrofitting did not begin again until Alliance engineers determined that proceeding with the work was safe.
“If only the workers at Rana Plaza had had the ability to challenge management over fears of cracks, that tragedy may have ended very differently,” he said.
The organisation has formed 140 safety committees in its approved factories to facilitate more open dialogue between workers and factory management.
He also confirmed that no workers have died at an Alliance-compliant factory since remediation work began.
“There is no question, however, that much work lies ahead for the Alliance over the next 15 months,” he said. “Achieving completion of high-priority repairs – and investing in workers through the helpline, our safety re-training and the development of safety committees – all remain our laser focus.”