'Alliance and Accord member brands, factory owners and the government - all together have brought a change to the RMG industry making it one of the safest industries, whereas it was once considered one of the dangerous industries'
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, one of the two major western buyers’ platforms working to improve workplace safety in Bangladesh’s ready made garment sector, will end its tenure at the end of this year.
However, the platform and the buyers are still in talks with the government and other stakeholders to put a safety monitoring mechanism in place, former ambassador James Moriarty, the executive director of Alliance, told reporters on Sunday at a briefing.
“The alliance will not be here after January 1 next year. We are done, we are not asking for an extension. We have finished our primary job which is the completion of remediation in the vast majority of the Alliance factories.
“What our brands want to ensure though is that there is something in place that will make sure that the factories that have already achieved a good level of physical safety, have already achieved a good level of training, already work well with the Helpline — continue to do so. In other words we are going to need some sort of entity that monitors factories,” James said.
“If you look to our progress trend, it shows that there is no need for extension,” he added.
Alliance members are looking for some entity or organization that will make sure those factories that have already achieved physical safety continue to maintain that.
“Alliance and Accord member brands, factory owners and the government - all together have brought a change to the RMG industry making it one of the safest industries, whereas it was once considered one of the dangerous industries,” he said.
In response to a question, James Moriarty said they were negotiating with the government, the BGMEA, and other players regarding an SMO (Safety Monitoring Organization).
“When it comes completely under the government umbrella, it needs to continue to work well,” he added.
“The Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) has a lot of work it needs to do, the National Action Plan factories need to be fully remediated,” he said.
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety is a platform of North American brands and buyers.
Board member of Alliance Tapan Chowdhury, Sean Cady, Simones Suttara, Ed Johnston, Dana Veeder, Executive Director of Walmart Marco Reyes, and Executive Director of Phulki (NGO) Suraiya Haque were also present at the briefing.
The Alliance announced that its landmark confidential 24/7 worker helpline - Amader Kotha (Our Voice) will transition this month to an independent initiative, with an ability to expand its services beyond Alliance factories.
The Alliance made the announcement as it moves toward transitioning its factory safety and worker empowerment initiatives to an independent Safety Monitoring Organization (SMO) managed in partnership with local partners.
“Amader Kotha has empowered hundreds of thousands of garment workers to report issues of concern anonymously and without fear of retribution,” said James Moriarty.
“We are incredibly proud to leave the Helpline as a legacy, and that this important resource will continue, and grow, under the leadership of the Helpline project partners.”
Established by the Alliance in mid-2014 as an empowerment mechanism for workers in Alliance-affiliated factories, the Helpline allows garment workers to report and resolve substantive issues in their factories, ranging from emergencies and urgent safety concerns to workplace abuse and wage compensation disputes. Since its inception, more than 233,000 inbound calls from workers in over 1,000 factories have been received. To date, more than 80 percent of all substantive issues have been resolved.
Workers in Alliance factories have praised the Helpline as having a direct impact on their daily lives.
“The Helpline allows us to get problems resolved, and our supervisors have started to take our concerns more seriously thanks to the Helpline,” said Shahnaz Akter.
Md Kamruzzaman said: “A colleague of mine called the Helpline to report a fire at a home in his neighbourhood, and the Helpline got the fire brigade to the scene. The Helpline makes factories and our communities safer.”
“The Amader Kotha Helpline Center is now housed at Phulki,” announced Suraiya Haque, founder and executive director of Phulki, a well-established Bangladesh civil society organization.
“We are delighted to continue this enormously beneficial program in collaboration with our project partners, Clear Voice, a project of The Cahn Group, LLC, and LaborLink, recently acquired by ELEVATE, a mobile platform that establishes a two-way communication channel between organizations and their workers.”
Five years ago, more than two dozen leading North American apparel companies, retailers and brands joined together to form the Alliance.
Almost 90% of Alliance factory remediation is complete, more than 1.5 million workers have been trained to protect themselves in case of a fire emergency, the Helpline is available to 1.5 million workers 24 hours a day. There has been zero loss of life due to structural, electrical or fire-related accidents in factories where the Alliance has led on remediation.
The Alliance announced on Sunday that its landmark confidential 24/7 worker helpline—Amader Kotha (“Our Voice”)—will transition this month to an independent initiative with the ability to expand its services beyond Alliance factories.
Since its inception, more than 233,000 inbound calls from workers in over 1,000 factories have been received. To date, more than 80% of all substantive issues have been resolved.