Improving Working Conditions in the Ready-Made Garment Sector in Bangladesh Programme

RMG Programme (Phase II) Brief

July 2017 - May 2018

The second phase of the Improving Working Conditions in the Ready-Made Garment Sector in Bangladesh Programme is funded by Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The programme covers four strategic areas which include ensuring factory safety through remediation; governance building to effectively regulate industrial safety and support labour inspection reform; improving occupational safety and health (OSH) in both policy and practice; and expansion of Better Work Bangladesh to ensure competitiveness and compliance in RMG factories.

Strategic Area 1: Ensuring factory safety through remediation

Operation of Remediation Coordination Cell

A Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) was set up in May 2017 to manage the remediation of garment factories under the Government of Bangladesh’s National Initiative. The RCC offices are now fully equipped, and the RCC task force and core bodies are operating. The Task Force has held 32 meetings to validate Corrective Action Plans (CAPS) submitted by National Initiative factories. Eight remediation update meetings have been held with owners of 443 factories. A total of 114 factories submitted Detailed Engineering Assessments (DEA) to Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), of which 50 were checked by the Task Force. The Task Force also provided recommendations on these DEAs to ensure the quality and standards of remediation.

Of the 809 national initiative factories undergoing follow-up by DIFE, 107 are reported to have fully remediated. Status of CAPs till March 2018 is as follows – 422 factories remediated more than 50% and 111 factories have remediated more than 80% of the compliance issues identified in CAPs. In all, 29% of CAPS related to structural safety, 31% related to electrical safety and 27% related to fire safety have been addressed, as per factory reports submitted to DIFE.

Activities and progress of the Remediation Coordination Cell is captured periodically and published on ILO website. ILO is supporting DIFE to establish an RCC website which should be operational in July 2018.

Compliance Protocol

A compliance protocol to ensure compliance and address non-cooperation from factories was drafted by the ILO in consultation with BGMEA and BKMEA. This protocol has been approved by the Inspector General of DIFE and was presented at the 13th meeting of the National Tripartite Committee for “National Tripartite Plan of Action (NTPA) on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity in the Ready-Made Garment Sector in Bangladesh” on 9 January 2018.  The ILO has requested the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MOLE) to commence the enforcement of this compliance protocol.

RCC Recruitment

As per the current Implementation Agreement between DIFE and ILO, DIFE will hire a number of engineering, communications, data management and support staff to facilitate the operation of the RCC.

The tender process for recruiting 47 RCC engineers in the three disciplines (structural, fire and electrical) has been initiated by ILO and awaiting finalization. This activity is being carried out through consultation with relevant stakeholders and in line with ILO’s standard procurement procedures. In parallel, the Government of Bangladesh has initiated the process of hiring 60 engineers for DIFE through their own funding.

To assist DIFE in accelerating factory remediation, ILO has proposed to hire 10 temporary engineers for the RCC. Two of these engineers are now on board and the recruitment process for the remaining eight engineers is ongoing.

Guidance manual and knowledge transfer

Guidance manuals on structural, fire and electrical safety have been developed for delegated RCC engineers.

43 engineers and inspectors from DIFE, Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD), Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) have received on-the-job training to enhance their skills and technical knowledge on preliminary assessment reports, CAP formulation, CAP validation and orientation on DEA Guidance Manuals. The training included a day-long knowledge sharing session facilitated by ACCORD, ALLIANCE and FSCD.

Remediation financing

A workshop on remediation financing was held on 27 September 2017. The event brought together representatives from employers’ organizations, banks, development partners and private enterprises to discuss the barriers to accessing funds needed for remediation work in ready-made garment (RMG) factories. A remediation kit for factories is being produced that includes all necessary information on the remediation process.

More than 300 factory owners and representatives have attended seven sessions on remediation financing in 2017 to gain clarification on credit facilities, application processes, eligible criteria and relevant contact persons at commercial banks. 10 factory owners had one-to-one follow-up discussions with Bangladesh Bank on the application process and seven factory owners are now in consultation with Bangladesh Bank to initiate the application process for credit facilities.

Strategic Area 2: Governance

Remediation Strategy

The Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) drafted a Remediation Strategy in August 2017 with the support of ILO. This strategy has a long-term goal of ensuring building safety compliance in all industries in Bangladesh.

National Steering Committee for factory safety

Terms of Reference (ToR) for the National Steering Committee (NCS) has been reviewed by DIFE and was tabled in the 13th National Tripartite Committee for NTPA meeting. As per the meeting’s decision, the ToR was sent to MoLE for review and finalization. The NSC will serve as a coordinating body for factory safety in all industries and will be resourced based on requirements. Currently, the NSC is seen to be an expansion of the National Tripartite Committee with addition of Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources and buyer representation.

Collaboration with the labour inspectorate

Reports on the Reform of Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), Motivation and Retention Strategy for DIFE staff and Annual Inspection Reporting Process and Inspection Quality Monitoring Framework have been drafted and shared with DIFE for their review. The programme will work closely with DIFE to develop an action plan and the Labour Inspection Reform Road Map based on the priorities of the programme and the recommendations stipulated in these documents.

Fire Safety Institute at BUET

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) is providing a diploma course on Fire Safety Engineering with the support of ILO. The first batch of engineers have successfully completed the course in September 2017. BUET has offered a similar version of the course for factory managers.

Collaboration with Fire Service and Civil Defence

The ILO has reached an agreement with the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) to establish an implementation agreement (IA) under which development of an internationally accredited fire professionals’ certification program and awareness campaign on gender responsive regulatory bodies will be undertaken.

Strategic Area 3: Occupational Safety and Health

National action plan for OSH

DIFE has started laying out the preparation of the National Action Plan (NAP) for Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) with detailed description of tasks, roles, persons in charge, budgetary allocations and consultation with relevant stakeholders. To support this process, a discussion paper on preparing NAP was shared with DIFE for further review.

Awareness on OSH

OSH awareness materials and OSH kits prepared in Phase 1 of the programme have been disseminated among workers, factories, trade unions, academia and other stakeholders.

OSH Day

National Day on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH Day) 2018 was celebrated across the country on 28 April. Colourful parades and truck shows were organised at industrial districts and visibility items on OSH were displayed around Dhaka city.

Government of Bangladesh presented 10 apparel companies with ‘OSH Good Practice' awards on the occasion. With the support of ILO, the award has been introduced for the first time in Bangladesh to recognize business owners who made proactive efforts to ensure employee welfare. The award was handed over at a high-level event attended by the Minister and Secretary of Labour and Employment as well constituents, media and donor partners.

DIFE published a souvenir book which featured an article on the global OSH Day theme this year – OSH for Young Workers.

Strategic Area 4: Better Work Bangladesh improving working conditions and productivity

Factory registration

As of May 2018, 158 factories are active with Better Work Bangladesh (BWB), employing 351,436 workers, 54% of whom are women.

Advisory visits

As of March 2018, 579 advisory visits have been conducted in Better Work factories with an objective to effectively influence compliance with national and international labour standards.

Factory assessments

264 factory assessments have been conducted in Better Work factories in total since the initiative commenced. These assessments provide an overview of factory performance in meeting national laws and international labour standards and using effective management systems. A total of 256 reports have been released so far and are available for review by external stakeholders.

Training services

Better Work Bangladesh continues to carry out a series of training to build the capacity of factories for effectively addressing non-compliance issues and install best practices. These training activities are aimed at workers, supervisors and managers, and include sessions on supervisory skills, life skills, workplace cooperation, managing people, Participation Committee’s roles and responsibilities as well as sexual harassment prevention. From October 2017 til March 2018, 26 industry seminars and 23 training sessions have been held with 823 participants (28% women).

Formation of Participation Committees (PC) and Safety Committees

35 safety committees and 61 elected PCs have been formed until March 2017. In total 105507 (58% women) workers have cast vote and elected 621 workers' representatives, of whom 42% are women.

'Healthy Mother Healthy Child'

Under its ‘Healthy Mother Healthy Child’ project, BWB advocates to factory management, during regular factory visits, to provide nutritious food/snacks. To date, 14 BWB-affiliated factories have started providing energy-boosting food like bananas, milk, eggs, biscuits and cakes to 89 pregnant women and 203 lactating mothers.

BWB developed an action plan in July 2017, based on which it will work towards formulating policies and procedures to protect the rights of the lactating mothers, eventually to have an impact in reducing the maternal and infant mortality rates across the country.

Mothers@Work

25 factories have signed up to the Mothers@Work program, a joint initiative of BWB and UNICEF. Mothers@Work aims to support garment manufacturers to ensure enhanced maternity rights protection and support lactating mothers to follow breastfeeding best practice.

Training on Emergency Preparedness and Accident Investigation

Following request from the Inspector General of DIFE, BWB carried out a training on Emergency Preparedness and Accident Investigation for 47 DIFE Labour Inspectors (RCC engineers and doctors).

Brand Partner Sexual Harassment Prevent (SHP) Training

A sexual harassment prevention training session was carried out for BWB brand partners – Li & Fung, American Eagle, Puma, Gap, Kmart Australia, Esprit, Target Debenhams, Carters, Fast Retailing, PVH, Levis - to disseminate lessons learnt from factories on SHP, discuss the high court verdict on sexual harassment and align approaches to address sexual harassment in factories. Following the training brand partners pledged to support suppliers to achieve a harassment-free work space.

Worker Empowerment Programme (WEP)

BWB has implemented its ‘Women Empowerment Programme’ in two factories with the collaboration of brand partner, PUMA. To date, 151 managers have received awareness training on sexual harassment prevention (SHP) and 57 workers (PC members, SC members, First Aiders) have received training on workplace communication.

Cross-cutting areas

Gender mainstreaming

Gender Action Plan for the ILO RMG programme has been drafted in line with the Gender Strategy of the programme.

ILO and UN Women have launched a study to identify underlining factors responsible for the apparent reduction of the female labour force in the RMG sector. A sample of 216 RMG factories are being surveyed during the field study alongside women RMG workers who have left the sector.

A photo exhibition entitled “Beyond the sewing Machine: A journey towards Gender Equality in the Bangladesh Garment Sector” was held on 7 March 2018 to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) 2018. Photos of women garment workers, supervisors, union leaders, labour inspectors and participation committee members were displayed at the exhibition.

Information and Knowledge Management

The Labour Inspection Management Application (LIMA) system developed for the Department of Inspections for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) has been made operational as of 1 January 2018 and is now in use by all DIFE field offices. The system, officially launched on 6 March 2018, will be used by labour inspectors to plan and conduct inspections with information being stored in a central database. The system can also be used for factory owners to apply for licences and to report accidents and injuries.
 
A 10-member DIFE IT committee, headed by Deputy Inspector General (Safety) will oversee and support the operationalization of LIMA in all DIFE offices. Orientation sessions on LIMA’s operation have been organised for DIFE IT Committee and labour inspectors in DIFE’s Narayanganj, Gazipur and Chittagong district offices.

Android tablets and internet SIMs have been distributed to Labour Inspectors to facilitate factory level inspection and other field level data collection.

An additional 25 tablets were provided to the Bangladesh Fire Safety and Civil Defence (FSCD) for use with its e-fire licensing system. FSCD started using their e-Fire Licensing and Inspection System from 15 September 2017 and made the use of the system mandatory for all its offices on 1 January 2018.

Communication

Newspaper advertisement and media coverage were organised on the occasion of OSH Day 2018 to build public awareness on OSH.

To mark International Women’s Day 2018, a photo exhibition featuring women's empowerment in the garment sector was organised in collaboration with the Netherlands embassy. The Daily Star published a feature article on the event.

Bilingual fact sheets and visibility items on LIMA were produced; media coverage was organised for the LIMA launching event held on 8 February 2018.

The first e-newsletter for ILO Bangladesh office was launched in May 2018. It covered news and stories on the world of work in Bangladesh and was distributed among ILO constituents, partners and donors.

Short videos on DIFE’s Reform, Gender Inclusion, LIMA App, IKMS and DIFE Foundational Training have been produced to showcase the activities and achievements of the RMG programme. An animation video that helps create awareness of the role and work of DIFE has been produced.