WASHINGTON — The Honorable Ellen O’Kane Tauscher, independent chair of the Board of The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance), has issued the following statement in response to a report by the International Labor Rights Forum, Clean Clothes Campaign, Worker Rights Consortium and Maquila Solidarity Network, that in several areas, misrepresents and oversimplifies the complexities of the Alliance and the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety’s (Accord) efforts to improve worker safety in Bangladesh. It is important to note that the factories highlighted in the report are those producing products for both Alliance and Accord brands.
“There is no doubt that the Alliance has had a transformative impact in strengthening the structural integrity of Bangladeshi factories where millions of women and men make a living each day. We have proven this strong commitment to improving workplace safety in Bangladesh’s garment industry through concrete actions and results.
- Progress: We are proud that nearly 1.3 million workers in Alliance-compliant factories are safer than prior to the creation of the Alliance, and we remain laser-focused on intensifying this progress. The Alliance and our member companies share the same ultimate goal as the Accord: creating a safer future for the garment workers of Bangladesh. We remain committed to working collaboratively with the Accord, the National Action Plan and other key stakeholders to achieve this goal over the next 18 months.
- Transparency: Despite the picture painted by this report, we share an open and on-going relationship with the Accord and work closely with them to remediate factories. We meet on a monthly basis with Accord engineers and leadership to review any and all concerns in shared factories. In fact, the Accord has never raised any of the issues contained in this report. While some may seek to set up a false sense of competition between our two organizations, we continue to work closely together on the ground to advance factory safety on behalf of millions of garment workers in Bangladesh.
- Validation: Our analysis of factory remediation progress reflects the conclusions of qualified and trained engineers who are working diligently with factories to ensure they have proper fire safety equipment, conduct inspections and verify progress. These inspections are rigorous, and to date, we have suspended 101 factories from the Alliance list for failing to make sufficient progress on remediation—a considerably higher number than factories suspended by either the National Action Plan or the Accord.
- Addressing External Challenges:The complexity of the remediation process in some cases means that sustainable fixes to factory safety take longer than initially anticipated. For example, because there are no local suppliers in Bangladesh for the type of sprinkler that meets Alliance standards, we are helping suppliers import them from international markets. In partnership with the Bangladeshi government, we have taken steps to help expedite the shipment of internationally-rated fire safety doors and to eliminate burdensome import tariffs on this equipment. We continue to partner with suppliers to address these challenges as they arise.
- Five-year Initiative: The situation on the ground in Bangladesh is complex and challenging. We project that our remediation work will be largely completed by 2018—as originally planned. We continue to stress that remediation is not an end point, but a continuing journey. Factories and other key stakeholders must take up the charge to continue the culture of safety well beyond 2018.
The Alliance stands by its progress, which is validated by an accomplished team of on-the-ground engineers and professional staff, and we remain committed to our mission of creating a safer environment for the millions of workers that make a living in Bangladeshi factories. Together, the Alliance, the Accord, and the Government of Bangladesh, as well as NGO and advocacy stakeholders, must all work together to ensure the safety of Bangladeshi workers. Discriminating between initiatives to create misleading narratives will only serve to undermine our collective effort to improve worker safety.”