Published in the Daily Star on 17, August 2017
Local garment makers have proposed the formation of a factory inspection and remediation agency similar to foreign agencies Accord and Alliance to strengthen workplace safety in the apparel sector.
Once registered under relevant laws, the platform, to be called ‘Shonman’ (respect), would be run under the guidance of an ombudsman chosen by the Prime Minister’s Office.
However, the platform will also have a steering committee comprising representatives from organisations such as the BGMEA, the BKMEA, the ILO, brands, trade unions and the commerce and labour ministries.
All decisions would be consensus-based and neither the government nor the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) would have veto power.
“We have not finalised everything yet. But terms and conditions are ready,” said BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman.
He said the BGMEA executive board would sit with the government after Eid-ul-Azha. He said he would disclose details very soon.
As per the draft, the steering committee would appoint a chief operating officer and a chief technical officer and form a review panel to deal with pending decisions.
The implementation board of the existing Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) of the government would be responsible for dealing with technical taskforces, case handlers and fire, electrical and safety engineers.
In the first phase from January to June 2018, the RCC management board would list factories under the National Action Plan, Accord and Alliance, which will achieve 85 percent of their remediation targets by December this year. Afterwards, from June 2018 to June 2020, signatory buyers would be requested to assist ‘Shonman’ with third party audit fees so that independent verification of existing factories can continue.
New factories registering after December this year would have to pay for their inspections based upon the square footage of their facility.
The RCC financial management board would liaise with the BGMEA, the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufac-turers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for funds.
However, there may be an additional need to ask for contributions or participation of wider stakeholders if deemed necessary by the steering committee, the proposal said.
From 2021, ‘Shonman’ would become fully self-financing.
In case of a dispute, the Ministry of Labour and Employment would have the final say, after views of all parties are taken into consideration, states the proposal.
One of the parties concerned will have to file a petition with the steering committee to resolve disputes. The committee would have to come to a conclusion through majority vote within a maximum of 21 days.
The parties concerned can appeal with the steering committee for a final, binding arbitration.
Arbitrations will be governed by the country’s laws and administered by the Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre.
Thorough, credible safety inspections of new factories and routine monitoring of old ones shall be carried out by skilled personnel selected by and acting under the direction of the implementation board.
The safety inspectors would be available to provide inputs for the RCC legislative review to support capacity building of the labour ministry.
The BGMEA came up with the ‘Shonman’ proposal soon after the Accord, the inspection and remediation platform of more than 200 retailers and brands, mostly European, disclosed plans to extend its stay in Bangladesh for three more years.
The Accord is a legally binding platform formed in May 2013 after the Rana Plaza building collapse with a five-year tenure for building inspection and remediation. Its tenure expires in June next year. Garment owners have opposed the extension.
The Accord and the Alliance, a platform of the North American retailers and brands, have been working in Bangladesh to strengthen workplace safety in the garment sector through remediation of fire, electrical and structural loopholes.
Rob Wayss, Accord’s executive director for Bangladesh, didn’t reply to text message.