1,000 RMG factories operate as subcontractors

They are not associated with BGMEA, BKMEA posing security risks

| Updated:
04 September 2022 10:05:30

More than a thousand ready-to-wear (RMG) factories across the country, most of which operate on a contract basis, are not associated with either of the two apparel umbrella bodies – BGMEA and BKMEA.

As a result, these factories pose worker safety risks as the majority of them remain outside the scope of inspection that took place after the Rana Plaza building collapsed, industry insiders said.

After the Rana Plaza tragedy, some 3,500 export-oriented RMG factories, members of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) or the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) , were inspected by Western retailers, the former Accord and Alliance, and as part of a joint ILO-government initiative.

But factories that were not registered with the BGMEA and BKMEA remained outside the fire, electrical and structural integrity inspection jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the number of such non-member factories has increased over time in the country due to flooded work orders, the insiders added.

According to the Mapped in Bangladesh (MiB), there are a total of 1,104 non-member garment factories out of the 3,861 units mapped last June.

MiB, a 5-year project to develop a digital database of RMG workers since April 2017, has already created a database of RMG factories, covering factory name, address, GPS, status registration, building type, worker, exporting countries, customers and certification.

These 1,104 non-member factories created jobs for some 0.22 million workers – 40.53% men and 59.47% women, according to MiB data.

Of the 1,104 units, some 488 are knits, 309 sweaters and 192 wovens, while the remaining 115 are mixed-goods manufacturers.

More than 400 factories have obtained registration or license from the Department of Factory and Establishment Inspection (DIFE), while only 40-50 units have been listed with the former Accord and Alliance and the national initiative, according to the data.

According to a joint study by the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Christian Aid in Bangladesh, on average, surveyed RMG employers each lack 44 workers in their factories.

This shortage of workers compared to the higher amount of export orders has led to the formation of a number of new subcontracting factories, according to the study.

These outsourced factories are mostly not inspected for compliance by brands and government authorities.

In addition, children and minors are hired in these factories to meet the demand for labor shortages, the study adds.

Industry insiders have said that there are quite a few of these non-member factories that are sister concerns to larger BGMEA or BKMEA members.

When questioned, Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, Vice President of BKMEA, said that none of them were exporters, saying that exporters must have Declaration of Use (UD) certificates for overseas shipments.

Since they are not members, they do not get such UD certificates, he added.

To be an export-oriented factory, it must have 80 percent overseas sales, he explained.

The majority or 70% of these factories were closed during the Covid period while 50% of them reopened after the Covid period.

Some of them operate as subcontractors and produce goods for export-oriented garment factories, for example, they

die or other supply chain related productions, he claimed, adding that they were registered with their respective associations.

About 20-50 percent of their operations might engage in export-related production, while the rest of the time they produce for the local market, Ehsan added.

Responding to the FE, BGMEA Chairman Faruque Hassan said no non-compliant factory could become a member of the trade body.

The DIFE is responsible for ensuring occupational safety in these units, he noted.

Mr Hassan, however, said they were trying to bring non-member factories under the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) – the successor to Accord’s activities in Bangladesh – but had not yet made any progress in because of the lack of agreement between the brands and the workers’ representatives. .

The BGMEA chairman agreed that all factories should be compliant.

Speaking to the FE, CPD Director of Research, Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem said that with the increase in export orders and graduation in the sector, many non-member factories have been closed. , some reopened later, while some factories restarted – they are mostly small in size.

For worker safety, they need to be regulated as there are fears that they will not be included in any of the inspection activities like RSC, he said.

There could be two ways – ensuring DIFE registration for factories and putting them under inspection control, he suggested, adding that the industrial safety council (ISC) under DIFE needs to be strengthened.

Also BGMEA and BKMEA, spontaneously, should make them members, he said.

Unfortunately, the two trade bodies are unwilling to make them members, he said, adding that brands also have a responsibility in this regard.

None of them can ignore or deny their responsibilities if an untoward incident in the industry occurs in the future, he noted.

Professional bodies can make them associate members initially and bring them into compliance gradually through ISC or RSC, he suggested.

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