Making RMG compliance mandatory
A recently held seminar in the city organized by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) brought together union representatives, business leaders in garments industry and other stakeholders to deliberate on the issue of compliance. There is no second opinion that certain basic standards have to be made mandatory for the RMG sector to ensure workers' physical safety and wellbeing. As some experts have pointed out, the RMG industry has now woken up to the realities of installing compliance equipment, costs of which were not previously built into planning.
While safety is undoubtedly at the forefront of compliance standards in Bangladesh, other major RMG-producing countries can commit substantial investments to make their factory floors a safe place to work as their cost of doing business is significantly lower than in Bangladesh. Their companies can retain competitive edge, thanks to lower interest rates, developed infrastructure, skilled labour force, semi-automated production process, financial incentives, high labour efficiency and low cost of materials. These are pertinent issues that have to be addressed before an industry-wide reform can be expected on compliance.
Mere enactment of new legislation will not have the desired effect. Compliance and rock bottom prices buyers and retailers pay do not work together. A change in the modus operandi is required to help financially offset some of the costs of retrofitting unsafe factories to conform to new standards. Policymakers for their part may revisit the duty structure for import of raw materials and bank interest rates to help bolster the single largest export earning sector in the economy.