As part of its national initiative under the Tripartite Plan of Action (TPA), the government of Bangladesh has so far finished inspecting 1000 garment factories for structural, fire and electrical safety according to a press release by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Apart from the ILO, the TPA is also backed by Canada, the Netherlands and the UK.
More than 1,900 factories have been inspected by the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, leaving just over 600 factories of the sector's 3,500 export-oriented RMG factories to be completed.
“This is a significant milestone as we seek to create a safer RMG sector for Bangladesh. We are now making concerted efforts to complete as many inspections as possible by the 31 July deadline. We shall not compromise on the safety of workers. After this date, factories will no longer receive inspections for free and will need to meet the costs themselves if they wish to continue exporting,” commented Syed Ahmed, inspector general of the Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishments (DIFE ).
He also detailed the national initiative's next move, which is the factory remediation phase. In a pilot program, DIFE inspectors will explain the process of developing Corrective Action Plans to a select number of factories before the process will start for all factories that fall under the national initiative.
“The national initiative has seen an intensive process of cooperation and collaboration on areas such as the harmonization of inspection standards and reporting. Considerable efforts have also been made to establish management processes within regulators to effectively follow up on inspection reports in a systematic and transparent manner,” said Srinivas Reddy, the ILO's country director for Bangladesh.
Though it is commendable that the national initiative goes beyond factory inspections and that it remains committed to creating a "comprehensive and accurate list of actively exporting RMG factories" despite obstacles like factories having closed, moved or changed, the question is what will happen to those garment factories and their workers that do not fall into this category, i.e. that are currently not or not at all export-oriented. Their number is in the hundreds, if not more than a thousand, and it remains to be hoped that they will not simply be forgotten or slip through the cracks because they have no ties to foreign buyers.