Towards smooth factory remediation

Dhaka,  Wed,  20 September 2017
Published : 14 Aug 2017, 18:06:54

Towards smooth factory remediation

Setting the deadline for factory remediation should be accompanied by supportive mechanism. And in view of the varying nature of the needs for remediation, it is important that the authorities should be thoroughly aware of all these and create an enabling atmosphere for the factory owners to correct the faults and become compliant, writes Wasi Ahmed
The urgency of the government to see the end of garment factory remediation has finally produced a stern warning. The authorities want that factories left out of the inspection of the two buyers' groups-Alliance and Accord-be done with by June next year without fail. It may be recalled that the inspection teams of Alliance and Accord have almost completed their work with factories directly involved in exporting to European and North American buyers. Those left out are relatively smaller factories reliant mostly on subcontracting. These factories are being inspected by the national initiative formed by the government.

For expediting remediation work to remove and correct faults, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) has reportedly been holding meetings with the factory owners to get information about the problems they are facing in completing remediation. In the first phase, according to a report published in a local daily, the DIFE signed an agreement with Chittagong-based garment factory owners with regard to the timeframe for completion of remediation and relocation of factories, where necessary. Reports say that some factory owners complained about challenges in remediation and relocation of their units due to lack of funds. The DIFE is scheduled to make interactions with non-compliant factory owners through a series of meetings in other places as well to address the problems facing their factories.

Following the meetings, a time-bound remediation strategy would be formulated as promised by the government to the international bodies.

According to the DIFE statistics, 1,549 garment factories, which remained outside the purview of the inspection conducted by Accord and Alliance, have been inspected under the national initiative.

Out of the 1,549 factories, 1,131 are housed in shared or rented buildings and 418 are housed in buildings owned by factory owners.

In a recent meeting, the labour ministry promised foreign diplomats that the country would formulate a time-bound remediation strategy for the garment factories inspected under the national initiative by August 31.

The ministry also assured the international stakeholders that the flaws found during inspection of the factories would be fixed by June, 2018. Failure on the part of the owners to do the needful would result in closure of the factories.

It comes no less than a shock to know how little has been achieved in the remediation of the faulty garment factories so far. The time already spent in the process spans more than two years. No doubt, factory remediation is challenging as the jobs involved are not confined to a definite set of corrective measures. The faults spread across myriad areas, requiring large-scale corrections in factories of various scales. Implementing corrective measures would depend on how best the whole process of work is integrated in order to render the factories safe and compliant. Given, however, the complex nature of the work, it was expected that once the things were in place by way of identifying the required improvements through methodical inspections, the arduous process would be streamlined which would create some momentum.

     Since the beginning of the work on faulty factories, there was much confusion, a good deal of which grew from ill-informed discussions in the print and the electronic media. There were reported rifts over the mechanism of remediation between the garment associations and the remediation planners -- Alliance and Accord. The government, too, at times, appeared to be impatient. Statements from senior ministers on the issue also fuelled the confusion and controversy. Lately, it seems all parties, including the government, have come to terms with not only the need but the modus operandi of remediation. 

      In view of the overall remediation process now in place, it is crucially important for the factory owners to be more forthcoming to meet compliance needs. True, lack of serious concern on the part of many factory owners at the initial stage was responsible for the slowdown of the process. Gearing up the process to complete the work early is the prime need of the hour for all stakeholders. But it is still not clear where will the funds come from. Dearth of funds has been raised by many factory owners as the main obstacle to large-scale remediation like shifting factories to new premises. As for the warning to close the factories not able to complete the remediation process on schedule, it appears that the authorities are more eager to shift the whole responsibility to the factory owners.

Observers, including insiders, feel that setting the deadline should be accompanied by supportive mechanism. And in view of the varying nature of the needs for remediation, it is important that the authorities should be thoroughly aware of all these and create an enabling atmosphere for the factory owners to correct the faults and become compliant.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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