DHAKA (Reuters) – Only 200 out of 1,600 garment factories in Bangladesh have met the requirements of an international accord on worker safety, and 400 factories have been barred from taking international orders, the industry body’s president said on Sunday.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh was set up by European fashion brands to improve factory safety in Bangladesh after as garment factory complex collapsed in 2013 killing more than 1,100 people.
The five-year pact was originally due to expire in May 2018 but the transition period has been extended. The pact’s factory oversight team will then hand over to a government body set up for that purpose.
Rubana Huq, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), accused the accord’s members of unilaterally imposing new requirements which were hurting the sector. She said she had met with their inspectors on Saturday to urge them to consult with manufacturers on their decisions.
“We had an agreement with Accord in May this year that it will not take any decision unilaterally but that has not been honoured,” she said.
“Since the formation of Accord, we implemented lot of remediation as per its requirements that involved huge investment. Now, in the name of final checks, the Accord is asking for several remediations.”
Huq also said that of the 1,600 factories inspected by the team between 2014 and 2019, only 200 had been awarded completion certificates.
At least 400 factories which inspectors found were to slow to comply with the new safety rules were as a consequence no longer allowed to accept orders from the Western brands that are members of the accord, she said.
The Bangladesh garment industry is the second largest export earning country after China and the sector represents about 16% of the economy and employs over 4 million workers.
In June, garment manufacturers demanded higher export subsidies from the government, saying proposals in the latest national budget, unveiled last week, were not enough to compensate for higher production costs and low prices.
Reporting By Serajul Quadir; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky