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DIFE now to inspect left-out RMG units
The government has finally taken a move to bring 650 more readymade garment factories under the safety assessment programme to ensure workplace safety in the entire sector, officials said.
After the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, safety parameters in about 3,700 garment factories were inspected under separate initiatives taken by western buyers' platforms and the government.
But over 900 units still remain outside the purview of fire, electrical and structural integrity assessment during the three ongoing safety programmes, according to a report by the Bangladesh Sustainability Compact.
The fresh move came a month after the compact partners -- EU, US and Canada -- called on Bangladesh to either bring these export-oriented garment factories under the purview of inspection or stop their operation, the officials said.
In the 'Implementation of the Bangladesh Compact Technical Status Report 2018' published on September 28, the compact partners said approximately 930 export-oriented RMG (readymade garment) factories are yet to undergo any safety assessment to ensure structural, fire and electrical safety.
These factories are either new, have moved to new locations or were not covered by any of the three inspection initiatives, said the report, available on European Commission official website.
"Government of Bangladesh needs to ensure that these factories either undergo inspection or are closed," the report reads.
When asked, Shamsuzzaman Bhuiyan, inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), said, "We have sent a project proposal for the inspection of some 1,100 factories, including RMG, plastic and chemical units, to the planning commission last month."
He, however, disputed the number of RMG units mentioned in the compact report, saying that the number would be 650.
"And all of them are not engaged in export activities," he told the BDchronicle.
These factories employ around 277,000 workers, according to DIFE officials.
In July 2013, immediately after the Rana Plaza building collapse, the European Union (EU), Bangladesh and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) signed the Sustainability Compact to improve labour rights situation and safety issues in the country's readymade garment (RMG) industry.
Later, the United States of America (USA) and Canada joined this initiative.
Some 2,200 garment factories have been assessed by the Accord, a platform of EU-based apparel brands, retailers and trade unions, and the Alliance, another platform of North America-based apparel companies.
Another 1,500 garment factories which didn't have direct business with the companies linked to Accord and Alliance but are members of either BGMEA or BKMEA have been assessed under the joint initiative of the government and the ILO, according to industry people.
A good number of garment factories not associated with any of the two platforms and mainly engaged in sub-contracting have remained outside the purview of the inspection, ignoring the workers' safety issues, they said.
The government is also under pressure from right groups, development partners and the ILO to bring all the garment factories under the purview of inspection, they added.