Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – A collaboration of six leading US and Canadian apparel and retail trade associations has sent a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeking cooperation to implement the Safer Factories Initiative (SAI) in Bangladesh.
“….we understand that joint effort and cooperation of all parties – the Bangladesh government, factory owners, workers, buyers in North America and Europe, members of civil society, and organised labour-are essential to identify viable solutions and implement a successful and sustainable plan of corrective action,” the North American Bangladesh Workers Safety Working Group in the letter.
The North American brands and retailers sent the letter to the Prime Minister Friday. 
The group’s observations came against the backdrop of the losses of lives in tragic incidents at Rana Plaza, Tazreen Fashions, Tung Hai and other apparel manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh in the recent past. 
The group comprises the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), the Canadian Apparel Federation (CAF), the National Retail Federation (NRF), the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), Retail Council of Canada (RCC) and the United States Association of Importers of Textile and Apparel (USA-ITA).
They also said the incidents strengthened the resolve of North American apparel brands and retailers to find out practical, immediate and longer-term plans to ensure safety of workers in all ready-made garment (RMG) production facilities in the country. 
“Working together with the Bangladesh government we can ensure viability of the garment industry as manufacturers and suppliers to markets around the world,” the letter said. 
The group said there were multiple underlying causes that contributed to the fire and structural integrity risks in the factory buildings. “We understand that there are no single or simple solutions,” the group added.
Immediate steps must be taken to identify those problems and begin reducing these risks, the letter said. 
“To that end, we are pleased to hear of recent actions by the government of Bangladesh to begin inspections of factories, particularly in Dhaka and Chittagong, for compliance with fire and structural safety standards, and to close a number of factories that have already been found to be unsafe,” the two-page letter noted. 
The group is also encouraged by the decision of the Bangladesh government to review wages of garment workers and rules on formation of their own unions.
These efforts are all necessary to begin addressing the underlying problems in the garment sector in a comprehensive, concrete and coordinated manner, the letter added. 
“We ask for your assurances that these positive steps will be part of an ongoing and sustained enforcement effort by the Bangladesh government,” the letter noted. 
The group earlier announced their SAI including short, medium and long-term goals for moving forward with meaningful improvements in workers’ safety in Bangladesh and around the world.
Besides, the SAI will cover all apparel factories in Bangladesh and proposes significant training programmes for electricians and engineers to ensure building safety standards.
In order to achieve any sustainable improvement in workers’ safety in Bangladesh, certain long-term and sustainable strategies are necessary to address the evolving safety needs of workers, including mechanisms to establish ‘Fire and Building Safety Compliant’ factories, training programmes and the strict enforcement of building and safety codes. 
The initiative also sets in motion the creation of a viable, equitable and sustainable funding mechanism intended for training, upgradation of existing factory structures and ensuring safety of new constructions, according to the group.
BBN/SSR/AD-19May13-8:28 am (BST)