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

RMG Programme Update

July - December 2017

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. It 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. All the Corrective Action Plans (CAPS) have been validated by the task force. A total of 47 factories submitted Detailed Engineering Assessments (DEA) to DIFE, of which 32 were checked by the task force.

Of the 754 national initiative factories undergoing follow-up by DIFE, 3% (21) are reported to have fully remediated. Status of CAPs is as follows – 109 factories remediated more than 50% of the compliance issues identified in CAPs. In all, 28% of CAPS related to structural safety, 26% related to electrical safety and 21% related to fire safety have been addressed, as per factory reports submitted to DIFE.

Guidance manual and knowledge transfer

Manuals on structural, fire and electrical safety have been developed for RCC engineers. The ILO is coordinating with Accord and Alliance engineers for knowledge transfer of practical experience on remediation follow-up and information and knowledge management system.

Remediation financing

A workshop on remediation financing was held on 27 September 2017. It 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.

During the regular remediation update meetings with factory owners in November and December 2017, a remediation financing session was conducted, followed by a follow-up discussion with DIFE. The session gave factory owners the chance to gain clarification on application processes, eligible criteria and contact persons of the commercial banks for the credit facilities. More than 300 factory owners/representatives attended seven sessions on remediation financing and 10 factory owners had follow-up one-to-one discussions with Bangladesh Bank on the application process. As a result of the remediation sessions and follow-up meetings, 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.

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.

Strategic Area 3: Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)

National action plan for OSH

DIFE will prepare the National Action Plan (NAP) for 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 has been shared with DIFE for further review.

OSH awareness materials and OSH kits prepared in Phase 1 of the programme have been disseminated among workers and factory managers. Universities providing OSH training and degrees have also received the kits which are useful training materials for safety committee members.

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

Factory registration

As of December 2017, 167 factories are active, employing 344,572 workers, 55% of whom are women.

Advisory visits

187 advisory visits have been conducted in Better Work factories with an objective to effectively influence compliance with national and international labour standards.

Factory assessments

229 factory assessments have been conducted in Better Work factories in total since the intiative 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 229 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 actions aimed at workers, supervisors and managers. These include supervisory skills training, life skills, workplace cooperation, managing people, Participation Committee roles and responsibilities as well as sexual harassment prevention.

Formation of Participation Committees (PC)

21 safety committees and 48 elected PCs have been formed until December 2017. In total 76,932 (58% women) workers have cast vote and elected 474 workers' representatives, of whom 42% are women.

'Healthy Mother Healthy Child'

Under the ‘Healthy Mother Healthy Child’ project, BWB advocates to factory management, during regular factory visits, to distribute food and provide appropriate breastfeeding time and space for pregnant and lactating workers. 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.

The areas of work under this project include providing support on nutritional needs, maternity protection and childcare assistance. In addition, the project also organizes training for the staff of factory clinic, welfare officers, managers, line supervisors and childcare specialists. Five months into the project, 12 BWB-affiliated factories – making up roughly a 40,000-person workforce– have started to provide energy-boosting food like bananas, milk, eggs, biscuits and cakes to 49 pregnant women and 149 lactating mothers.

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. This plan includes detailed gender related actions for each of the four strategic areas.

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.

Information and Knowledge Management

The Labour Inspection Management Application (LIMA) system developed for the Department of Inspections for Factories and Establishments has been made operational as of 1 January 2018 and is now in use by all DIFE field offices. LIMA will facilitate better data management and reporting which will in turn contribute to enhanced effectiveness, transparency and accountability. LIMA 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 as well as reporting accidents and injuries.
 
250 android tablets have been procured for DIFE to facilitate factory level inspection by the labour inspectors and other field level data collection. An additional 25 tablets have also been provided to the Bangladesh Fire Safety and Civil Defence (BFSCD) to be used with its e-fire licensing system. BFSCD 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

Short videos on DIFE’s Reform, Gender Inclusion, LIMA App, DIFE Information and Knowledge Management System 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.

A brochure highlighting the results and achievements of the first phase of the RMG programme was produced and widely distributed.