DIFE’s manpower shortage hinders proper factory inspection

Its DG says

Staff Correspondent

12 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) boss on Sunday said the regulatory body has manpower shortage for proper factory inspection.

“More than four and a half lakh establishments remain unregistered while 90 lakh factories, shops and establishments are registered, but DIFE has manpower shortage" DIFE Inspector General Md Nasir Uddin Ahmed said.

He said this while addressing a dialogue of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) where economic analysts and workers leaders emphasised on improving safety at non-RMG factories saying that RMG sector has improved a lot in terms of workplace safety after the Rana Plaza accident.

The dialogue styled: "Industrial Safety of the RMG Sector during the Post-Accord-Alliance Period" organised jointly by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Bangladesh.

“RMG factories have improved significantly but the safety issue is still a concern for all industries,” Prof Rehman Sobhan remarked.

Citing poor regulatory and oversight mechanism, Prof Rehman Sobhan recommended the government to look after all industries apart from the export-oriented RMG industries only.

In particular, he sought active trade unions in ensuring safety rights of the labours who are at the centre point of this issue.

Safety issue is at the forefront of garment industry as there is certain pressure from the buyers but it doesn't mean that security and compliance can be ignored in absence of external pressure, Apex Group Chairman Syed Manzur Elahi observed.

He urged the government to pay for special attention to ensuring safety of other export-oriented and local industries as well.

Now, the export-oriented RMG industry’s success in ensuring industrial safety needs to be maintained in the post-Accord-Alliance period, CPD said after unveiling a report of the RMG factories’ safety.

A major focus of the post-Accord-Alliance period should be complete the institutionalisation process of industrial safety in the RMG sector and give it a shape of sustainability.

About 22.5 percent of the four thousand garment factories have still not been inspected, according to a CPD study.

However, at the same time, the National Initiative and Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC), formed by the government, did not make the expected progress, CPD research director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem said.

Industrial safety of export-oriented RMG enterprises has made significant improvement through various initiatives undertaken under the National Tripartite Plan of Action (NTPA) during 2013-2018, CPD said.

These activities had been carried out under the Accord, the Alliance and the National Initiatives.

With the successful implementation of those initiatives during 2013–2018, it was expected that a process of institutionalisation of industrial safety in the RMG sector would be completed.

After three years (2018-2021) it has been realised by the stakeholders that the process of institutionalisation on industrial safety needs further activities in order to make it fully operational, according to CPD.

Dr Khondaker pointed out some weaknesses of the RMG Sustainable Council (RSC) formed after the Accord completed its task.

A two-pronged approach will be needed in order to address challenges of sustaining the safety measures.

Firstly, strengthening the monitoring and enforcement capacity of existing organisations with maintaining transparency and accountability. Secondly, overall coordination of industrial safety to be set under ‘one umbrella,’ according to CPD.

"The Accord and Alliance initiatives have made great strides in the garment sector. But a number of recent industrial accidents have raised the question of whether we can sustain the progress achieved through Accord and Alliance," Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD said.

George Faller, Office In-Charge, ILO Country Office, stated that a holistic approach is required to ensure enforcement of safety guidelines, also reminding of DIFE’s factory inspection responsibility.

Md Babul Akhter, former secretary general, IndustriAll Bangladesh Council and president, Bangladesh Garments & Industrial Workers Federation stated that the recent incidents show that factory safety is a concern beyond the RMG sector. DIFE and DoL need to work transparently and efficiently.

Felix Kolbitz, Resident Representative, FES Bangladesh Office and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Faruque Hassan also addressed the virtual event, among others.