Most RMG factories not fully compliant, survey finds

Shakhawat Hossain

Some 743 out of 1,175 garment factories located in Dhaka division and surveyed in 2008 have failed to fully comply with a 2006 tripartite agreement, according to a government inspection report.
   The survey revealed that the non-compliant factories had not implemented the all eight conditions agreed on by the labour ministry, representatives of apparel owners and garment workers union.
   The report prepared by the Directorate of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, put the number of factories in full compliance with the agreement at 432.
   Implementation of the minimum salary of Tk 1,662.50, regular payment of salaries and overtime bills, maternity leave and earned leave are the main components of the agreement. Besides, garment owners agreed to fix a weekly holiday for workers, give them appointment letters and issue identity cards.
   ‘Among the non-compliant factories, 485 failed to implement two conditions and the rest 258 fell short of meeting three conditions,’ said Abdus Samad, deputy chief inspector of the Dhaka division.
   The directorate bracketed the companies complying with five components of the agreement as third grade factories and those which implemented six components were categorised as second grade factories.
   The inspectors also found that at least 28 of the 1,175 garments factories did not implement the minimum wage and faced lawsuits.
   At least another 100 factories did not pay salaries regularly to workers as most of them were operating on irregular basis.
   The non-compliant factories, in most cases, failed to implement the conditions of issuing appointment letters and identity cards to their cent per cent workforce, allowing earned leave and a weekly holiday, he added.
   Samad, however, said the number of fully compliant factories was increasing.
   He said a latest survey had found at least another 60 to 80 garment factories fully compliant in the first three months of the current year.
   ‘It is a good sign that more and more garment factories are becoming compliant in their own interest,’ he said, adding that the growing number was also proving the fact that the global financial recession had not made much adverse impact on them.
   Local garments association leaders, however, disputed the findings of the survey.
   ‘The number of non-compliant factories will not be so high,’ said Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Salam Murshedi.
   The factory owners are in full compliance and maintaining it strictly despite the slowdown in export orders because of the global recession.
   ‘We are committed to maintain the components [of the agreement] although it seems it will be difficult in near future,’ he added.
   Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Fazlul Haque rejected the inspection report as baseless.
   ‘Such inspection reports are sometimes prepared at the desk…The inspectors hardly visit the factories,’ he said.
   He, however, said some factories had failed to meet all the conditions due to financial constraints, including higher bank interest rates, frequent power disruptions and deferred payments by buyers.
   The officials of the directorate said a number of teams had been inspecting the garment factories since 2007 in Dhaka and Chittagong where more than 4,000 garment factories were located.
   Of them, Dhaka division comprising the capital city and its adjoining districts and towns like Gazipur, Savar and Narayanganj, has more than 3,000 garment factories.
   Compliance has become a sensitive issue for the country’s garments sector that accounted for 76 per cent of the $14 billion exports in the last fiscal year and employed more than three million people.
   The garment factories often face vandalism by angry workers over wages and other demands. The unrest prompted many international buyers to leave the country and place orders in Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia.

Source: The Daily New Age, 18 April 2009


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