Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety

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Alliance FAQ

+ What is the Alliance?

The Alliance is a group of 28 global apparel companies, retailers and brands that recognized the urgent need to rapidly improve working conditions for garment industry workers and have joined together to help improve worker safety in Bangladeshi ready-made garment (RMG) factories.

+ What is the goal of the Alliance?

The Alliance is focused on systemic and sustainable improvements in fire, structural and electrical safety within Bangladesh’s garment factories. We are seeking to ensure that garment workers work in safer environments.

+ Do you work with other groups to accomplish your goals?

The Alliance believes that partnership across sectors and shared responsibility from all stakeholders are critical to achieving progress. We are working with worker organizations, factory owners, NGOs, civil society and the government of Bangladesh to ensure that safety improvements are sustainable.

+ What progress is underway now?

Our focus through December 2013 was the development—and agreement across sectors—on a common, strict standard for fire, structural and electrical safety to which factories will be held during the inspection process, as well as the development of our comprehensive worker training curriculum. We were successful in developing that standard and harmonizing it across other parties in the RMG sector.

In addition, we have also been focused on our goal to inspect 100% of the more than 700 Alliance factories by July 2014. Inspections are now well underway—led by Bangladesh inspectors and overseen by a Committee of Experts—with more than 50% of inspections completed to-date.

The Alliance has also employed a comprehensive worker training program that has reached nearly half of our factories with more than 400,000 factory workers and managers trained to-date. By July 2014, we expect more than 1,000,000 factory workers and managers will have been trained. Finally, factory remediation has begun in factories where safety concerns have been found during the inspection process.
A six-month progress report with additional details on Alliance milestones can be found here.

+ Will factory inspection findings be made public?

Yes. Member companies make inspection findings public via the Fair Factories Clearinghouse (FFC) platform, and inspection summary reports will be updated monthly. This information is also being provided to worker groups operating within the factories.

+ Will the Alliance help pay for factory improvements?

Individual Member companies have committed a total of $100 million in accelerated access to low-cost capital to help factory owners to make factory safety improvements.

+ How is the Alliance involving workers in its efforts to improve factory safety?

We believe that workers’ voices and their perspectives must drive change.
In December, the Alliance conducted a comprehensive worker survey to identify worker needs, perceptions and gaps in existing safety training programs. The results of the 3,200-worker survey formed the basis of our comprehensive training curriculum, now the standard in all of our 700+ factories.

We have developed and begun rolling out a worker helpline that allows workers to seek information and raise concerns immediately, anonymously and without fear of reprisal.

We support and actively engage democratically elected worker representatives within our factories. Twenty Alliance factories have now established trade unions; we’re doing specific outreach to these unions to ensure they are supported and involved in our efforts.

In order to ensure that worker perspectives inform all of our work, several prominent Bangladeshi union leaders hold positions on our Board of Advisors.
These include:
  • Sirajul Islam Rony, President, Bangladesh National Garment Workers Employees League (BNGWEL)
  • Sukkur Mahmud, President, Executive Committee of the National Labour League (Jatiya Srmaik League)
  • Wajedul Islam Khan, General Secretary, Bangladesh Trade Union Kendra

+ Will the Alliance provide financial support to displaced workers?

Yes. The Alliance has committed 10 percent of total Member dues to support workers from Alliance factories that might be temporarily displaced during remediation work. We are partnering with BRAC –one of the world’s largest NGOs—to administer this fund, ensure transparency and manage disbursement.

+ Has the Alliance provided compensation to victims of factory tragedies?

The Alliance recently organized the first Fire and Safety Expo in Dhaka, all proceeds of which were donated to the ILO’s Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, established to assist victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy. Additionally, several individual Member companies have made substantial contributions to the Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund, administered through BRAC USA. This fund will be directed to three specific programs, including the ILO Rana Plaza Donos Trust Fund.

+ Are workers protected if they feel their factory is unsafe?

Yes. Alliance Members require that all factories from which they source respect the right of any worker to refuse work due to imminent safety concerns, and that such worker shall be protected from undue consequences.

+ Will Alliance Member companies source from a factory that fails safety inspections?

By signing the Alliance Membership agreement, our Member companies have committed to sourcing from factories that meet or are making good progress towards meeting the Alliance Building & Fire Safety Stand. For remediation of factories that Alliance inspectors deem unsafe, we follow the process established by the National Tripartite Committee (NTC), which requires that any factories we recommend for immediate closure be reviewed by a Panel of Experts for a thorough analysis and recommendation. If and when Alliance inspectors identify safety concerns that constitute a severe and imminent risk to workers, they immediately notify the factory owner, Alliance Member(s) sourcing from the factory, and Alliance staff to ensure worker safety and notify the NTC’s Panel of Experts.
 
At the same time, Alliance Members are committed to working with factories that ensure a safe working environment. Alliance Members are able to access and review factory safety inspection reports and remediation plans through the Fair Factories Clearinghouse (FFC) database, and are tracking progress on implementing recommended safety measures through the FFC and regular interaction with their factories.
our Member companies have committed to sourcing from factories that meet or are making good progress towards meeting the Alliance Building & Fire Safety Stand

+ Is the Alliance legally binding?

Yes. Membership to the Alliance is a five-year commitment – and the agreement and its terms that are legally binding on all of its Members. The Alliance Board of Directors – chaired by an Independent Director – has the authority to seek binding arbitration against any Member who does not satisfy its obligations under the agreement, and to publicly expel them for failure to abide by other commitments set forth in the Members Agreement.

+ Has the Alliance closed any factories?

As of 13 May, the Alliance has submitted five factories to the National Tripartite Review Committee (NTC) Review Panel with the recommendation for immediate suspension of production and closure for remediation.  Our inspections have revealed overloaded conditions and structural faults in both buildings, raising immediate concern for the safety of workers in these factories.  

For remediation of factories that Alliance inspectors deem unsafe, we follow the process established by the NTC, which holds that those we recommend for immediate closure must be reviewed by a Panel of Experts. The decision on closure is ultimately determined by the Government of Bangladesh.  Government officials are expected to make a decision on the closures of these factories next week.

While no one wants to see workers displaced as a result of a factory closure, ensuring worker safety is our top priority.  The Alliance has established a Worker Compensation Fund—comprised of dues from our Member companies, and administered by BRAC—that we will use to support all workers displaced as a result of the closure and remediation of these factories.

+ To what extent is the Alliance committed to pay workers’ wages?

We recognize that there is a need for investment at every level of the garment industry in Bangladesh.  The Alliance has committed nearly $50 million to a worker safety fund, comprised of member dues. Ten percent of this fund is earmarked for a Worker Compensation Fund, which is administered by BRAC and will be used to support all workers displaced as a result of the closure and remediation of factories. This will provide for 50% of workers’ wages—with the other 50% supplied by factory ownership—for up to two full months.

In addition to this, we’ve also made an additional $100 million available in affordable access to capital to help factories implement safety upgrades.

+ Does the Alliance have a protocol for receiving and resolving ethics complaints?

The Alliance has an Integrity Program to ensure ethical practices and compliance with applicable laws in the implementation of our work in Bangladesh and internationally. This program includes a hotline, hosted by third party provider EthicsPoint – reports are submitted to EthicsPoint on a confidential and anonymous basis (if so chosen) and sent to the Alliance Compliance Committee, which comprises only independent observers (that have no affiliation with Alliance members).

If you believe that Alliance staff or partners have engaged in unethical behavior, please submit a claim here. The Alliance shall not allow retaliation for reports made in good faith (see Whistleblower and Anti-Retaliation Policy here).

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