Almost five years have passed since the inspection of factories after the Rana Plaza tragedy but the remediation process of improving safety and compliance in most of the factories are yet to be completed.
The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) in August directed to stop the renewal of factory licenses until the completion of the repair works.
After the Rana Plaza collapse in Savar in 2013, questions were raised about the working conditions in the garment factories of Bangladesh.
Following the incident, two initiatives representing international brands and retailers- the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety- took the responsibility of inspecting 2,231 factories that manufactured the garments products for European Union (EU), North American and Canadian buyers and brands. The rest of the 1,549 factories were inspected by DIFE.
Although the inspections were concluded in 2015, many factories are yet to undergo the remediation process.
The inspection activities of DIFE were criticized after the fire incident at Hashem Foods factory in Narayanganj in July.
DIFE’s Joint Inspector General Farid Ahmed told Bangladesh Post that when the factories do not follow the instructions given after inspection, DIFE authorities take punitive measures against them under protocol-6 and this has been done before.
“We also send letters to the factories to stop production,” he said. The renewal of licenses was stopped once earlier in 2018.
When asked about whether stopping the renewal of licenses would bring any effective results, DIFE’s Joint Inspector General Farid Ahmed said, “I can’t say anything about that.”
AKM Salehuddin, Project Director (Deputy Secretary) of Implementation of CAP for the factories placed to Remediation Coordination Cell told Bangladesh Post “The factories that haven’t completed repair works are gradually pressurized to close down by DIFE. Recommendations are also given to BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) to cancel some of the facilities.”
He said that DIFE has recommended BGMEA to suspend the Utilization Declaration (UD) of around 350 factories and the UD of 140 factories has been already suspended.
He further said that stopping the renewal of factories has not been able to bring any effective results.
“The factories are operating and continuing production. Most of the existing factory buildings do not have the scope of safety remediation.”
He suggested rehabilitation of these factories in a specific and different area of the city through government initiative.
When contacted, DIFE Inspector General Nasir Uddin Ahmed declined to make any comment on this issue.
BGMEA Vice President ShahidullahAzim told Bangladesh Post, “Our intention is not to shut down the factories but to make them understand that they must undergo remediation. Primarily they are given warnings. If they fail to complete the repair works we will cancel the membership and UD of these factories.”
He further said that most of the factories who are members of BGMEA have completed the repair works. If some haven’t completed the repair works, they will do it eventually. It might take bit time.
“The remaining factories that require remediation, work on subcontracts and are not members of BGMEA,” he added.
Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director of CPD told Bangladesh Post that DIFE has decided to stop the renewal of factory licenses after going through many procedures.
He said “These factories were given warnings and the timelines have also been negotiated many times, yet they didn’t complete the repair works. Considering these facts it can be said that DIFE had no alternative but stopping their licenses.”
He further said that according to the survey of CPD, 15 percent of the inspected factories have taken no initiative to start the repair work.
“The factories that haven’t completed the repair works should be given exemplary punishment through closure so that the other factories of this group can get a message and take necessary steps accordingly”, he added.
It might be claimed that the closure of these factories might affect the livelihoods of many workers, he said.
He further said, “However, it should be considered that if the factories continue to run their operations in a risky state and as a result, workers might lose their lives or get injured. It can bring about a more severe humanitarian catastrophe.”