DHAKA - Today, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance) provided its quarterly progress update on factory remediation and worker empowerment initiatives. Below are the remarks of former U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty, Alliance country director.
Media interested in obtaining a recording of the teleconference should contact Guillermo Meneses.
Additional information about the Alliance and our initiatives to improve safety in Bangladesh’s RMG industry can be found on our website at www.bangladeshworkersafety.org.
Remarks of Ambassador Moriarty:
Good morning everyone and thank you for joining our second quarterly call to discuss progress updates from the Alliance.
To start, our thoughts and prayers remain with everyone affected by the recent violent attacks in Dhaka—the victims, the loved ones of those who lost their lives or were wounded, and the members of the community who were rocked by this attack.
I was good friends with the U.S. Embassy employee who was viciously murdered in April, so I understand the pain and loss that so many others are feeling now.
That said, on behalf of the Alliance, our member companies and our staff, I am heartened and humbled by the strength of the Bangladeshi people, and I am confident their resilience will see them through these challenging times.
Despite these unspeakable tragedies, the Alliance and our member companies will continue to stay the course—because improving safety for the millions of men and women who make a living in Bangladesh’s garment sector is a moral imperative.
I am joining this phone call from Dhaka. I returned here on Saturday to help our talented team, as well as the many others in Bangladesh who are working to build a safe garment industry.
As we review and update our policies to help keep our staff and contractors safe, our work to improve safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories will continue at full speed.
To that end, I have several positive developments to share related to factory safety improvements.
First, on the topic of remediation: as of today, 28 factories have completed their Corrective Action Plans—or CAPs —an increase of 17 percent since our last call.
And across all factories, more than one-third of the issues most critical to life safety have already been addressed, two years ahead of the deadline.
As you know, we provide inspections, detailed corrective action plans, technical assistance and access to low-interest financing in order to guide and assist factory owners in completing necessary repairs.
We also carefully monitor progress—and factories that demonstrate an unwillingness or inability to achieve completion of their critical issues are escalated for suspension from our supply chain.
Since the end of the first quarter, an additional six factories have been suspended for failure to make adequate remediation progress—bringing the total to 83 factories suspended. Make no mistake—our work is achieving the big-picture goal of driving consolidation of the RMG industry in Bangladesh into safer factories.
We’ve also updated how we evaluate factories’ progress toward remediation following recent conversations with factory owners, the BGMEA, the National Fire Protection Association, the Accord and other key stakeholders.
A factory’s status now reflects whether it’s on track to meet remediation requirements by July 2018—when the Alliance will sunset.
With this new approach, we avoid penalizing factories that are making steady progress but may be stalled in some areas due to circumstances they can’t control—like delays in importing necessary equipment.
This new approach allows us to encourage factories to fast-track remediation of issues most critical to life safety, rather than concentrate on relatively simple, but not as critical, fixes.
Next, on the topic of worker empowerment: our worker training and helpline programs continue to bring positive change in the lives of workers and the safety of their workplaces.
Following our groundbreaking training of 1.2 million workers in fire safety, we are now in the process of re-training our entire work force—and we’ve provided this refresher to some 600,000 workers to date.
We have provided training also to more than 22,000 security guards in all Alliance factories. This will allow them to play a leadership role in the event of fire or earthquake. This training has already paid off by helping improve response to emergencies and protect human lives.
We have also provided financial compensation to nearly 7,000 workers displaced by remediation—fulfilling 100 percent of requests from factory owners, and helping workers provide for themselves and their families despite the temporary closure of their factories.
We have also completed training for democratically elected worker safety committees in 34 factories, including the initial pilot program of 16 factories—and we expect to launch the training for close to 60 more in the next few months.
And more than 1.1 million workers in over 770 factories now have access to our confidential 24-hour worker helpline—which allows them to safely and anonymously report concerns—safety or otherwise—within their factories.
To date, we’ve logged more than 66,500 calls from both Alliance and non-Alliance factory workers. Just in the last month, I’ve seen several examples of interventions that were made possible by the helpline:
- In one instance, a call came to report an active factory fire in the early morning—in an Accord factory, not an Alliance factory. Helpline staff immediately gave notice to the local fire brigade, and within 10 minutes, the brigade arrived on-site to extinguish it. No one was harmed.
- On another occasion, the helpline received a call from a worker claiming that his supervisor was taking an unauthorized cut of their hard-earned employee bonuses. As a result of a call to the helpline and an investigation by our team, and a call to the factory management, the workers were paid in full, and the supervisor in question was suspended for his misconduct.
- These examples illustrate just how important the helpline is to workers across the garment industry—both in accessing emergency services and as a tool of empowerment within their factories.
I’m proud that today, these remediation and worker empowerment initiatives have made the Bangladesh RMG industry much safer than it was three years ago—and our progress is only intensifying now that remediation is underway at every Alliance factory.
Thank you for listening to this introduction. I am now happy to take your questions.