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Bangladesh Alliance reveals challenges for RMG sector reforms

The Alliance has identified 16 major challenges for carrying out sustainable reforms Bangladesh's readymade garment (RMG) industry. These include inadequate government capacity, unauthorised subcontracting business, limited presence and acceptance of trade unions and lack of modern safety equipment.

Other challenges include factory managers' poor knowledge about modern safety equipment and practices, understaffed government agencies responsible for building and fire safety, inconsistency in enforcement of law, required compliance, ambiguity between government agencies over enforcement and building approvals and unavailability of internationally certified but costly fire and electrical equipment, according to the first annual report published on its official website.

The Alliance report also revealed that 50 per cent of the surveyed 587 factories are now carrying out remedial recommendations by experts while 10 factories were fully or partially closed. The challenges related to inspections that the North American group of apparel companies, retailers and brands is continuing to address are limited pool of locally-based, qualified and experienced engineers familiar with international safety standards, lack of transparency and price pressure and limited production capacity within individual factories. Others are unauthorised sub-contracting and lack of retailers' sufficient leverage within individual factories to drive change due to dispersed production.

International fire, electrical and life safety standards are still new in Bangladesh while culture of safety is not well established here and literacy skills within the workers are limited, it noted. The other challenges identified related to workers empowerment are weak worker representatives' structure like trade union and worker participation committee and workers' intimidation or harassment in exercising their rights for freedom of association.