The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord) held its second Advisory Board (AB) meeting on 3 July 2014 in Dhaka. Representatives from the Government of Bangladesh (GoB)- Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE), IndustriAll RMG trade union federations (IBC-RMG), brands, suppliers, and Bangladesh NGOs/CSOs participated as members. The ILO Country Director served as the neutral Chair of the meeting of the Accord Advisor y Board. The 2 factory owner members of the AB were unable to attend reportedly due to production pressures with the Ramadan period.
The Chair offered the floor to the Executive Director – Bangladesh Operations (ED-BO) to report on issues brought to the Steering Committee from the April AB meeting.
On issues brought to the Steering Committee from the AB in April:
- the MoLE will consult with the Labour Secretary on maintaining 4 GoB AB members but re-configuring their selections to include a Civil Defense and Fire Service and RAJUK representative.
- IndustriAll will retain their 4 industry union representatives as the Accord is industry specific and the ITUC has expressed its support for industry union representation. The MoLE expressed no objection to maintaining the current labour representation on the AB.
- Accord continues to work with BGMEA and to obtain the association’s acceptance to serve on the AB. Accord has initiated a bi-lateral monthly meeting initiative of the Accord Executive team in BGD and one Bangladesh-based Steering Committee member from industry and labour. The first meeting took place in early June 2014.
The AB was informed that the BGMEA verbally, officially informed the Accord that they do not accept the invitation to serve on the AB. The Accord shall follow up with the BKMEA to confirm their current status with the AB as they have appointed an AB member but the association has not been represented in the first two AB meetings.
AB members were provided the edited and final AB terms of reference from the 3 April 2014 AB discussions.
The AB Chair expressed the importance of the industry being represented on the AB citing overcoming the challenges in implementing the Accord and the national effort requires commitment and “ownership” from BGMEA, BKMEA, the unions, and the Government of Bangladesh.
The ED-BO presented an update on the Accord implementation to the AB which included:
- Report on the 800+ inspections completed,100+ corrective action plans finalized, 60+ reports uploaded, 60 “immediate actions required” inspections cases and the 16 Review Panel Accord requests to the MoLE-DIFE Inspector General.
- Information on efforts of the Accord with brands, factory owners, and labour on remediation plans, monitoring and verification, and enforcement of the Accord provisions; including on temporary factory closure cases.
- Update on outreach, engagement, and education programs with brands, suppliers, IBC RMG unions, BGMEA. An update on informational and/or training materials was included.
- Information on Accord formal communications with signatories, official statements, press releases, journalist- accompanied Accord inspections, and release of video and still photos from inspections to the media.
- Report on challenges in implementation including: problems with Review Panel, challenges in enforcing Accord provisions in temporary factory closure cases, supplier resistance to engagement with IBC RMG unions, potential conflict with Accord provisions and BLA draft rules on OSH committees, and allegations that Article 22 (remediation finance) obligations are not being fully honoured.
- Report on Accord priorities in the near and medium term including: completing the initial inspections program by end of September 2014, expediting the re-opening or re-location of temporarily closed Review Panel factories, showing the informational video at all Accord factories, working with signatories, owners, and BGMEA on Article 22 allegations, fully deploy IBC field resource persons for worker outreach on the Accord, continue to systematize the safety inspections CAP finalization and verification processes, commence preparations for OSH committees at Accord producing factories, open an office in Chittagong, build database of qualified contractors, reliable safety systems suppliers, and qualified DEA (detailed engineering analysis) firms.
Questions on specific Review Panel cases, status of actual CAP implementation, and clarification on the Accord’s media strategy were fielded.
During feedback and discussion the following points were highlighted by Board members:
- the MoLE-DIFE IG clarified the status of the Review Panel and the reasons for the delay in scheduling some of the requests (citing disagreements b/w the engineers and initiatives on technical issues – concrete strengths in particular).
- Labour and CSO colleagues suggested the GoB should clarify (through formal communication) their authority to close factories deemed to be unsafe.
- Efforts to bring BGMEA and BKMEA on to the AB must be increased. Labour suggested that the brands (or a group of brands) and the buyers’ forum should urge the associations to accept the AB invitation.
- The AB welcomed the news that the Accord has secured a national communications officer.
- The importance of continued monitoring of Review Panel cases and enforcement of the wage, employment maintenance, and remediation support elements of the Accord is extremely important.
Recommendations to the Steering Committee:
- The Steering Committee should determine how to bring BGMEA and BKMEA more actively into the work with and Advisory Board of the Accord.
With no other business the meeting was adjourned. Next meeting to be held in early October 2014.