FACTORY INSPECTION STANDARD
RMG makers unhappy over buyers’ new conditionsMoinul Haque
Garment sector leaders are concerned over the imposition of new conditions in factory inspection standards by the EU and North American retailers’ groups bypassing the decision of the National Tripartite Committee (NTC).
Earlier, the two platforms of EU Accord and North American Alliance agreed to adopt a harmonised set of standards in line with the National Action Plan, but latter they included some new provisions in their drafts which will create complexity in the sector, they said.
The garment manufacturers urged the government to take steps so that the retailers group make their inspection standards flexible in line with National Action Plan, set by the NTC, which included representatives of government, factory owners and worker groups, with the help of International Labour Organisation.
The government might sit with the buyers, manufacturers and ILO officials over the issue by end of the month, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association vice-president Reaz-Bin-Mahmood told New Age on Tuesday.
‘Earlier, the Accord and Alliance had agreed on a minimum common standard for readymade garment factory inspection which was adopted by the NTC in association with ILO under the NAP but later the retailers’ groups included some fresh conditions in their drafts avoiding NAP,’ he said.
Reaz said that if the retailers include their new requirements on fire door, sprinkler, fire escape, fire walls and structures and fire window in the standards on their own will the garment sector will have to face severe difficulties.
‘We expressed our concern over the inspection standard of retailers’ groups to the government and the commerce minister assured that if necessary he would take imitative for government to government meeting to adopt a harmonised set of standards in line with NAP,’ the BGMEA leader said.
The issue will have to be solved before March to eliminate the fear of the factory owners as international initiatives may start their inspection in the month, he added.
Labour secretary Mikail Shipar, however, said that the Alliance and Accord will need to have approval of NTC to finalise their standards.
‘We would not approve such provisions which might be harmful for the industry,’ he said.
Mikail also said that they will sit further with the Accord and Alliance to ensure a common parameter for safety assessment in the RMG factories.
The BGMEA leadership also shared their concerns with the global buyers and demanded clarifications on some issues, which have been included newly in the draft of alliance and accord, to shun the panic of factory owners over the inspection process.
They said that the stipulation of National Fire Protection Association standard (an American standard), particularly for smoke detector, hose pipe, water tanks, stand pipes and fire alarm, in the draft of Accord and Alliance is nothing but an attempt to cost burden for manufacturers as most of the factories have installed these facilities as per the law of Bangladesh government . On February 3, in a meeting with the buyers’ forum, BGMEA president Atiqul Islam said that the standard of retailers’ groups required installing sprinkler in every floor and every part of a building but as per Bangladesh National Building Code sprinkler is not mandatory.
He requested the retailers to be flexible about the provision of fire walls and structures for existing setups and said that the requirement is not practical for existing factories as they will have to break walls to put new walls.
Opposing the proposal of public disclosure of factory information, the BGMEA president said that if inspection outcomes or audit reports of a factory is shared by Alliance or Accord in their websites that may destroy the business of the factory once and for all.
Terming the decision of retailers pulling out business from the factories situated in commercial buildings unrealistic, Atiqul said that this practice of buyers has created an alarming situation for the factory owners.
He also demanded realistic approach from the retailers considering the socio-economic structure of Bangladesh as well as the law of the land.
Srinivas Reddy, country director of ILO, has said in the meeting that the concerns of the apparel makers regarding the standards are valid.
The Accord and Alliance will inspect around 2,000 Bangladesh garment factories from where they procure apparel.
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