Bangladesh: RMG Sustainability Council takes over work of Bangladesh Accord to monitor garment factory workplace safety

On 1 June 2020, the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) took over the work of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh after the Accord ceased operations on 31 May. 

The Bangladesh Accord was established in May 2013 in the wake of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh that killed at least 1,134 people and injured over 2,000 others. In mid-January 2020, the Accord Steering Committee signed an agreement with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) on the transition to the RSC. 

The RSC will be governed by a board consisting of representatives of the BGMEA, fashion brands and national trade unions. However, some labour groups have warned the RSC lacks effective safeguards to protect workers.

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Item
1 June 2020

Bangladesh: Brands, manufacturers & unions launch RMG Sustainability Council to sustain workplace safety

Author: RMG Sustainability Council

“Press Release: RMG Industry brands, manufacturers, and unions launch joint RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) in Bangladesh to sustain workplace safety”, 1 June 2020

Ready-Made-Garments (RMG) manufacturers, global brands and retailers, global unions and their Bangladeshi affiliates have established…the [RMG Sustainability Council (RSC)]. [Continuing]…with factory inspections, remediation monitoring, safety training and an independent safety & health complaints mechanism available to [RMG]…workers, the functions of the Bangladesh offices of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety…have [also] transitioned to the…RSC. The RSC aspires to also encompass industrial relations, skills development and environmental standards.

More than 1200 Accord covered factories have completed more than 90% of the remediation of their Corrective Actions Plans. Through the work of the RSC, covered factories will be able to complete their [Plans] and ensure that all outstanding safety issues are remediated and verified…and that…factories are equipped and empowered to monitor and address workplace safety on a daily basis.

[O]ne of the first issues [the RSC] will need to address is the safe resumption of the office and field based work of its mandate. The RSC further urges all re-opened RMG factories to implement necessary measures to mitigate COVID-19 exposure and keep the factory workers as safe as possible. The RSC is confident and hopeful that its unique structure and commitment to collaboration will further advance a safe, healthy, and sustainable RMG industry in Bangladesh which can serve as a model for the world.

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Article
1 June 2020

Bangladesh: Upon launch RMG Sustainability Council urges all reopened factories to keep garment workers safe during pandemic

Author: Ibrahim Hossain, Dhaka Tribune

"RMG Sustainability Council launches to sustain workplace safety", 1 June 2020

RSC urges all reopened RMG factories to keep the factory workers as safe as possible amid Covid-19 pandemic

The country's apparel manufacturers, global brands, and unions have formally launched RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), a national initiative, in Bangladesh to sustain workplace safety...

Rubana Huq, BGMEA president and also the industry representative on the RSC Board of Directors, said: "The RSC is an unprecedented national initiative and through our collective efforts with the brands and trade unions we will make sure that Bangladesh remains one of the safest countries to source RMG products from."

As per the agreement among the stakeholders, the RSC will continue with factory inspections, remediation monitoring, safety training, and an independent safety and health complaints mechanism available to workers in RMG factories...

China Rahman, general secretary of the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council and trade unions representative on the RSC Board... said: "... [W]e will help ensure workers in RMG factories have safe workplaces and access to remedy to address safety concerns and exercise the right to safe workplaces. We will work to ensure that workers have trust in the newly established RSC."...

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Article
24 April 2020

Bangladesh: COVID-19 pandemic undermines ongoing worker struggles for social protection, living wages, freedom to organise & safe factories

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

"Remembering the Rana Plaza workers by continuing the fight for workers' rights during the pandemic", 24 April 2020

...Today, we remember the workers who died in the Rana Plaza collapse... While we commemorate this crisis, workers’ lives are again at risk. The Covid-19 pandemic... is undermining the ongoing worker struggles for social protection, living wages, freedom to organise, and safe factories in Bangladesh...

[W]ith demand drying up, orders being cancelled and postponed, and millions of garment workers facing destitution, it is of paramount importance that hard fought labour protections are not rolled back...

[T]he Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, established in direct response to the Rana Plaza disaster... [is soon to] be replaced by a national RMG Sustainability Council... [yet] safeguards to ensure its effectiveness in protecting workers remain conspicuously absent...

Some buyers have since reversed their decision [to cancel orders in response to COVID-19]... However, a significant number of major buyers from Bangladesh, notably Arcadia (Topshop), Gap, Walmart, Bestseller... continue to... refuse to pay and receive their completed orders...

Some factories have... reopen[ed] despite the government-declared extended lock down, forcing workers back to work under threat of dismissal or loss of already earned wages... Workers’ health and safety should not be put at risk by prematurely opening the factories...

The workers of the Rana Plaza factories knowingly were forced to enter the unsafe building, because their managers threatened they would withhold a full month of wages. Now millions of workers again might soon have to chose between their health and safety on the one hand and livelihood on the other...

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