Wednesday 7, June 2023

Good number of apparel factories seek RSC membership

A good number of old and new garment factories are now seeking membership of RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) as the audit standard of this tripartite platform is very high.

Primarily, 39 garment factories showed interest in joining the RSC although their safety standards have not been inspected by any neutral platform, which is an RSC membership eligibility criteria.

The RSC was assigned to monitor the progress in the introduction of safety measures at more than 1,700 garment factories in Bangladesh which had been inspected and remediated by Accord.

The 18-member RSC is formed with six representatives of trade unions, six of factory owners and six of international retailers and brands.

Comprising 200 European clothing brands and retailers, the Accord is an independent agreement designed to make all garment factories in Bangladesh safe workplaces.

However, many new factories have been formed after the Accord packed up operations from the country in May 2020. Many factories also did not get Accord certification as they failed to meet its standards.

There are some factories which could not maintain the Accord's standards but are now doing business, said Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

They have either shifted to new buildings or improved their safety standards but have been certified neither by the Accord nor the RSC, said Hassan, also an RSC board member.

"We also want the inclusion of the garment factories in the RSC so that the safety standard of all garment factories is improved," he said.

Hassan was talking to The Daily Star over the phone after a board meeting of the RSC at Amari Dhaka, the first in-person meet to be organised since the pandemic surfaced.

At the meeting, the RSC categorised some factories as "orphans".

Left out by the Accord signatories, these factories are now functioning but neither the RSC nor any platform will take responsibility of ensuring their safety.

"So, nobody will be made responsible if any accident takes place in those factories. They are like orphans," said Hassan.

"We want to bring them under the purview of the RSC so that their safety standard can be improved under the guideline of the RSC," he said.

Hassan said this, however, may take two months to three months as there were many complexities in enabling an RSC membership for a factory.

Amirul Haque Amin, another board member representing the unions and co-chair of the RSC, said according to the RSC rules, at least 18 months need to elapse after a factory severs ties with Accord to be an RSC member.

So it may take a few more months for many factories to be a member of the RSC as they are yet to fulfil the 18-month requirement, he said.

"We will have to discuss the safety issues more for making the new and orphan factories members of the RSC," Haque also said.

In the meeting, chaired by Dan Rees, director of Better Work of International Labour Organization and also convener of the RSC, board members discussed issues related to garment workers' health, he said.

Amin said the government should also come up with more initiatives for improvement of garment workers' health.

China Rahman, another board member representing the unions at the RSC, echoed Amin. The factories want to be the RSC members mainly for their own benefits, she told The Daily Star over the phone.


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