American retailers’ group finds 16 challenges for RMG sector

Lists inconsistency in law enforcement, harassment of workers as challenges

Staff Correspondent
A file photo shows workers busy at a readymade garment factory in the capital. North American retailers’ group Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety in its annual report found 16 challenges for the country’s RMG sector. — New Age photo

A file photo shows workers busy at a readymade garment factory in the capital. North American retailers’ group Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety in its annual report found 16 challenges for the country’s RMG sector. — New Age photo

INCONSISTENCY in enforcement of law concerning compliance, shady approvals of buildings and harassment of workers are among the key challenges to a sustainable reform in the apparel sector in Bangladesh, according to the annual report of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.
It said uneven government capacity, unauthorised subcontracting, limited presence and acceptance of trade unions and a lack of modern safety equipment must all be navigated to achieve sustainable change.
In the report, which was revealed on Wednesday, the North American retailers’ group identified 16 challenges the country’s RMG sector is facing.
The other challenges include 40 per cent of factories are housed in shared buildings, lack of qualified engineers familiar with international safety standards, higher cost of remediation, disproportionate influence exercised by the factory management.
‘Alliance has made notable progress but several challenges still remain as the group looks to continue progress over the next four years,’ the report said of the group which was formed to improve safety in Bangladesh garment sector after the Rana Plaza disaster in April 2013.
According to the report, factory managers are not familiar with modern safety equipment and practices.
Alliance, which has completed safety inspection of around 587 garment units, said, ‘The cost of remediation is still high for some factories, especially smaller enterprises operating in rented buildings while internationally certified fire and electrical equipment is not readily available in Bangladesh and it is very costly to import the equipment due to high tariffs.’
The report of the retailers’ group stated that international fire, electrical and life safety standards are still new in Bangladesh and the culture of safety is not well established.
Workers have limited power to force factory management to bring required safety improvements while factory management wields disproportionate influence, the report said.
The report also said that worker representative structures such as trade unions and worker participation committees remained weak in the RMG sector and workers who had tried to exercise their freedom of association rights had been intimidated and harassed.
It said that Alliance had completed safety assessment in its listed 587 garment factories and only 10 factories had been fully or partially closed after the inspection due to structural faults.
The platform has started remediation work at 50 per cent of its inspected factories, the Alliance’s annual report said.
Alliance claimed that they have already started to help factories implement critical safety repairs and renovations as outlined in its corrective action plans.
‘Our support takes many forms, one of which includes providing factory owners with access to low-cost capital. To this end, several members have committed to providing a combined total of more than $100 million to their respective supply chains to fund necessary improvements,’ Alliance said in its annual report.
Alliance managing director M Rabin said, ‘Substantial challenges must be overcome in order to achieve our goals in the Bangladesh garment industry.’
He said, ‘As the hard work of remediation now begins, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to do their part to ensure a safer industry for everyone.’
After the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed more than 1,100 people, mostly garments workers, in April last year, North American retailers including Walmart and Gap, on July 10 formed Alliance undertaking a five-year plan which set timeframes and accountability for inspections and training and worker empowerment programmes.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement