The associations representing the North American apparel and retail industry welcomed the Bipartisan Policy Center's First-Year Review of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance), which took place at a workshop September 17 in Washington, DC.
Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and BPC Co-Founder George J. Mitchell (D-ME) and former U.S. Senator and BPC Senior Fellow Olympia Snowe (R-ME) convened the one-year review workshop of the Alliance to evaluate the progress of the initiative and analyze next steps. Based on the Senators' opening statements as well as testimony from U.S. and Bangladeshi government officials, Bangladeshi labor representatives, and other key stakeholders and experts, the Alliance has made great progress in its first year toward improving the safety of workers in Bangladesh's ready-made garment (RMG) industry. The review also revealed that many challenges remain--for the Alliance, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord), the tri-partite National Action Plan (NAP), and the Government of Bangladesh.
According to the findings in the one-year review, the Alliance has achieved many milestones:
- As of July 2014, the Alliance inspected 100% of the 587 factories reported by its members.
- Certain Alliance member companies have made more than $100 million in below market financing available to factory owners to fund safety improvements identified in these inspections.
- The Alliance has trained over one million Bangladeshi factory employees on basic fire safety, which is an impressive step toward promoting safe workplaces and empowering workers with knowledge that could potentially save their lives.
- A worker helpline is currently in a pilot phase in fifty factories and provides workers with a third-party communication channel through which they can express their safety and other job-related concerns without fear of intimidation or job loss. The Alliance is working to expand the helpline, first to more than 150 factories by the end of the year, and then to all of its member factories.
- The Alliance provided wages for approximately 1,000 workers who have been temporarily displaced from their jobs due to factory remediation and closures, and in June the Alliance Board voted to double the duration of such compensation from two months to four.
- The Alliance has collaborated with trade unions and other labor groups by appointing Bangladeshi labor leaders to its Board of Advisors and creating a Board Labor Committee to focus exclusively on labor issues impacting the lives of the workers.
Among the challenges identified by the review is the need for better coordination and cooperation among the various worker safety initiatives in Bangladesh, providing affordable financing for the remediation of factories, continued training as workforce turnover is high, and the need for the Government of Bangladesh to assume a more vigorous role in securing the safety of workers.
The associations look forward to continuing to work with and support all the efforts to improve worker safety in Bangladesh, including promoting more coordination and cooperation among the initiatives. All of the efforts in Bangladesh are working toward the same goals of improved building safety, training, and worker empowerment.
Representing more than 1,000 world famous name brands, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) is the trusted public policy and political voice of the apparel and footwear industry, its management and shareholders, its four million U.S. workers, and its contribution of $361 billion in annual U.S. retail sales. AAFA stands at the forefront as a leader of positive change for the apparel and footwear industry. With integrity and purpose, AAFA delivers a unified voice on key legislative and regulatory issues. AAFA enables a collaborative forum to promote best practices and innovation. AAFA's comprehensive work ensures the continued success and growth of the apparel and footwear industry, its suppliers, and its customers. Learn more about how AAFA wears its mission at www.wewear.org.
Canadian Apparel Federation (CAF) The CAF is the national association for Canada's apparel industry. Established in 1992, CAF brings together leading firms from across the industry and works in areas such product safety, export market development, customs and trade policy and supply-chain management.
National Retail Federation (NRF), as the world's largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation's economy. NRF's This is Retail campaign highlights the industry's opportunities for life-long careers, how retailers strengthen communities, and the critical role that retail plays in driving innovation.
Retail Council of Canada (www.retailcouncil.org), founded in 1963, is a not-for-profit, industry-funded association. RCC represents more than 45,000 store fronts of all retail formats across Canada, including department, grocery, independent merchants, regional and national specialty chains, and online merchants.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) is the trade association of the world's largest and most innovative retail companies. RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers domestically and abroad.
The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) represents the fashion industry: textile and apparel brands, retailers, importers, and wholesalers based in the United States and doing business globally. Founded in 1989 as the United States Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel with the goal of eliminating the global apparel quota system, USFIA now works to eliminate the tariff and non-tariff barriers that impede the industry's ability to trade freely and create economic opportunities in the United States and abroad.