The Bangladesh government and RMG manufacturers have expressed deep concerns over a decision taken unilaterally by global trade unions, European apparel brands and retailers on Thursday, extending the Accord’s inspection tenure by three years without holding discussion with stakeholders.
Describing the decision as unexpected, the government and stakeholders asked them to submit a proposal to extend the tenure if the extension deems necessary.
Accord, a platform of European buyers, has been tasked with monitoring safety standards at the country’s apparel factories.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed expressed worries over the decision in a meeting at his office in Dhaka on Sunday. US Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, European Union Ambassador Pierre Mayaudon, Canadian High Commissioner Benoît-Pierre Laramée and Dutch Ambassador Leoni Margaretha Cuelenaere, BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman and Vice president Mahmud Hasan Khan Babu were present there.
“The decision is unexpected and unacceptable as the Accord has taken it unilaterally without holding discussion with stakeholders,” Tofail told reporters after the meeting.
He said: “As per agreements, the Accord will be operational until June 30, 2018, and inspection and remediation tasks will have been completed by the time. If the extension is necessary, the Accord will have to be in a different form where all the stakeholders will be included.
“If there is no representation of the government and local stakeholders, the decision will be meaningless one. Also, it will not be logical to forcibly impose such a decision on factories under the Accord.”
The ambassadors present there agreed with him on the issue and called it a proposal rather than a decision, Tofail claimed.
“Since Bangladesh gets trade benefits from the European Union, we have raised the issues with the ambassadors so they cannot be dissatisfied over them,” the minister said, adding that some of the companies were surprised at the time extension as they had not been informed of this.
There are 215 brands under the existing agreements. Thirteen brands and retailers signed the extended agreement, while eight more brands committed to signing it.
The Steering Committee of the Accord informed the issues to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), but it did not inform the government.
Meanwhile, in reaction to the move, the BGMEA said it had been closely working with the Accord for four years and was certain that none would move forward without holding consultation with stakeholders including manufacturers and the government.
“We hope that you [who took the decision] will engage in consultation with us and the government, and the Accord version 2 remains flexible to ensure all of us are a part of a unified vision of improving the fate of those who work within the industry,” the trader association said in a statement.