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Sub-contracting RMG factories to come under regulations

Nazmul Ahsan

The apparel factories involved in sub-contracting business must be complaint on labour issues, working conditions, wages and building construction, said a draft guidelines prepared by the government.
The guidelines to come into effect by the end of this month are aimed at regulating the sprawling sector, which still remains largely unaccountable for their low standard in industrial operations and abuse of workers, a high official in the commerce ministry said.
The sub-contracting garment units, which make up nearly one-fifth of the country’s more than 5,000 apparel factories and employ about 5 lakh workers, must implement the minimum wage structure for their employees, the guidelines said.
Commerce ministry in cooperation with BGMEA and BKMEA finalized the draft guidelines in the backdrop of serial industrial disasters in the apparel industry in recent period that triggered huge outcry among foreign buyers and rights groups.
The sub-contracting factories must have membership of either Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association or Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, according to the  proposed guidelines.
‘After long three to four months of intensive examination and scrutiny, the country is going to have sub-contracting guidelines soon to improve the working conditions and safety records in sub-contracting units,’ a top trade official told New Age.
The prime objectives of the guidelines are to avert building collapses and fire accidents along with ensuring proper working conditions and minimum wages for garment workers as the industry now lacks any regulations to oversee the activities of sub-contracting apparel sub-sector, he added.
According to the guidelines, sub-contracting units have to bring all their employees under group insurance so that workers get monetary protection in case of any accidents while on duty.
The factory buildings must have their approved structural designs and lay-out plans for being eligible to do the sub-contracting jobs, the guidelines added.
The main buyers usually overlook third-party manufacturers but the issue of sub-contracting has now become a serious concern following devastating incidents like Rana Plaza building collapse and Tazreen factory fire incident, president of BGMEA Atiqul Islam said.
‘The move is absolutely in the right direction to make the non-compliant sub-contracting factories become less-prone to any sort of disasters,’ Atiqul told New Age.
There are allegations that big garment manufacuring units are engaged in sub-contracting with non-compliant factories and Tazreen and Smart were among such non-compliant units.
After the Tazreen fire incident, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, cut off its ties with its Bangladeshi counterpart for sub-contracting with Tazreen, saying it was not authorised by the them.
The big garment owners take direct manufacturing orders form buyers and, in many cases, they shift their assigned tasks to third-party RMG units to manufacture apparel products mainly for timely shipments, industry insiders said.

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