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Global investors urge gov’t talks

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Bangladeshi garment workers block a road during a demonstration to demand higher wages, in Dhaka on January 9. MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP

Global investors urge gov’t talks

A Coalition of 190 global investors has urged the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) to negotiate with the government for the extension of the Accord in the country.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), based in New York, sent a letter to BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman this week, seeking his support so that the Accord can operate until the Remediation Coordination Council (RCC) takes over the charge of inspection and remediation of garment factories.

“Support an agreement between the Accord and the government of Bangladesh, allowing the Accord to continue to operate in Bangladesh without placing restrictions that would hinder its ability to implement its programme independently, to identify safety hazards, publicly disclose them and compel factories to remediate them,” the letter said.

“This is not the time to phase out the Accord’s comprehensive approach to inspecting and remediating fire and building safety issues in garment factories.”

The ICCR is a coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change and represents more than $3 trillion in assets under management, according to its website.

Its 300 member organisations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of more than $400 billion.

The ICCR says the investors are concerned that ending the work of the Accord on Building and Fire Safety in Bangladesh would be too risky for the agency’s signatory companies to continue to source from unsafe factories lacking a credible and effective regulatory system.

“It is our hope that the Accord will be able to function in Bangladesh until such time as the Remediation Coordination Cell is fully prepared to assume its tasks.”

The ICCR expressed sadness over the devastating fire in Chittagong district’s Chawkbazar sub-district late in February that killed 70 people.

The Bangladeshi government has a major challenge to protect its citizens from deadly fires and it will take time to build its capacity to do so, it said. Rahman confirmed that he received the letter.

“But the extension or departure of the Accord is depending on the court now.”

A hearing on a petition filed by the Accord challenging the High Court directive that asked the agency to stop activities in Bangladesh is scheduled April 7.

“However, the Accord should leave the country like the Alliance did after the completion of its works in Bangladesh,” Rahman said.

He said the Accord signatories were supposed to assist the garment factory owners financially for remediation, but only three to four factories had availed the finance through the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

ICCR members are not direct signatory to the Accord, but have international investment, said David M Schilling, senior programme director of the ICCR.

“We are concerned over the safety of the entire supply chain,” said Schilling.

He says the ICCR sent similar kind of letters to Cambodia and Mexico in the wake of safety-related challenge of workers.

The ICCR also thinks that the signatories of the Accord should pay higher prices for the garment items they source from Bangladesh as manufacturers have spent money to strengthen workplace safety, Schilling said.

The brands and retailers should share the cost of the remediation, he also added.

The ICCR had earlier sent letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeking the extension of Accord’s operations. THE DAILY STAR (BANGLADESH)/ANN

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