Govt limitations, lack of expertise, tools challenges for RMG sector remediation

Says Alliance in 2nd-yr report

Staff Correspondent

Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a consortium of North American retailers, has said lack of expertise, shortage of compliance equipment and government’s limitations in enforcing building regulations were the challenges for making progress on remediation in the country’s readymade garment sector.
‘There are a few engineers in Bangladesh with the expertise required to support remediation. No manufacturers of fire doors, sprinklers or other fire protection equipment operate in Bangladesh. All equipment must be imported,’ Alliance said in its second annual report published on Tuesday.
The lack of expertise and equipment has slowed progress of remediation at many factories, it said.
The buyers’ group said the progress on remediation was slowed in the second year of its operation due to the lack of remediation capacity in Bangladesh and the political unrest also affected normal operations of Alliance.
Substandard equipment has also created problems in many factories, Alliance identified.
Alliance also wants to develop a transition plan to handover the responsibility of the RMG sector renovation to the government and other stakeholders in 2018.
In the annual report, the retailers group expressed its satisfaction over the progress the RMG sector made in the year two of its operation and said that the development of a transition plan was the key goal of Alliance in the year three.
‘Alliance has worked from the very beginning to chart a path to 2018 that will include the transfer of responsibility to our partners in the government of Bangladesh and other stakeholders,’ the report said.
It said over the course of the next year, Alliance leadership would meet with a wide array of stakeholders, including the Bangladesh government and donor governments, to develop a plan for the sustainability of the Alliance’s work in Bangladesh.
Two years ago, the leading apparel companies, retailers and brands of North America formed Alliance
in the aftermath of the 2012 Tazreen Fashions fire and the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse with a five-year commitment to bring sustainable change to the garment industry in Bangladesh.
‘Alliance will work with members to ensure that the factories from which they source remain compliant with the Alliance standard during the lifetime of the initiative. As 2018 approaches, Alliance intends to transition responsibility for both new and ongoing inspections to the government of Bangladesh,’ the retailers’ platform said in its report.
According to the annual report, in the year three Alliance wants to make greater progress towards achieving a culture of safety in the RMG sector in Bangladesh through focusing on remediation and final inspections.
Alliance identified unauthorised subcontracting as an ongoing problem in the Bangladesh’s garment sector and the platform is working with the member companies for eliminating such subcontracting, the report said.
Alliance said that they had completed final inspection process at eight factories and found six of them achieved the standards set by the platform.
According to the annual report, Alliance completed its safety inspections in 528 factories in its first year and started remediation verification visits in the next year.
In its second year Alliance completed first remediation verification visits in 528 factories and found that the remediation progress at 154 factories was less than 20 per cent, 251 factories made progress between 21 per cent to 40 per cent, progress at 133 factories was 41– 60 per cent and 19 factories made 61— 80 per cent progress.
The platform has so far completed the second remediation verification visits at only 17 factories, the report said.
Alliance estimated remediation cost approximately at $2,50,000 to $3,50,000 a factory on an average, and the platform thinks many factories will require external financing to make the necessary safety improvements, according to the report.
The report also highlighted the Alliance’s work to help ensure funding for factory remediation, including their recently completed agreement with the International Finance Corporation and a pending partnership with the United States Agency for International Development.
The IFC agreement made a total of $50 million in affordable, long-term financing available to factory owners and the second partnership USAID will provide $18 million for upgradation of factories that might not be eligible for the IFC programme.
According to the report, individual Alliance members have committed to providing a combined total of $100 million in financing to factories in their supply chains.
The report also highlighted an impact assessment of the Alliance Basic Fire Safety Training Programme, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Centre at Houston School of Public Health in collaboration with the University of Dhaka.
Nearly 4,600 randomly selected workers were surveyed who had previously received the Alliance training and compared the responses to a baseline survey conducted among workers prior to the training in 2013.
According to the survey report, 73 per cent of the surveyed workers of Alliance member factories know what they would have to do if fire alarm is sounded while the percentage was only 34 in the base line survey that was conducted one year before the training initiatives were undertaken.

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