The government of Bangladesh has drafted a new policy to bar non-compliant sub-contracting readymade garment (RMG) factories from doing business with exporters, official sources said.

The government, after consulting local and international stakeholders, is framing the new ‘sub-contracting policy 2013’ with a view to ensuring a positive working environment in the sub-contracting business.

The policy will make it mandatory for the garment factories to implement compliance issues in their factories and to obtain membership certificates either from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) or the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) to be eligible for doing sub-contracting business.

The policy also will compel the factories to ensure decent working conditions according to a check-list, approved by the government.

Besides, the sub-contracting factories will have to bring all their workers under group insurance and to pay minimum wages along with ensuring other rights to their workers.

The draft policy also said a nine-member monitoring committee, headed by the Director General (Textiles Cell) of the Export Promotion Bureau would be formed to monitor and evaluate activities of sub-contracting factories’ activities.

“We have prepared a draft of a sub-contracting policy to ensure accountability of these factories creating a decent working condition there,” a high official of the Ministry of Commerce told the Financial Express of Bangladesh. “If every thing goes smoothly, we are hopeful of finalising the policy shortly,” he added.

However, though industry leaders and workers’ association leaders have hailed the move, sub-contracting factory owners have expressed their concern over the future of their factories after finalisation of the policy.

Sub-contractors said upgrading everything will not be possible for most of the sub-contracting factories as the firms are being operated in rented and unhygienic houses.

“If the government, labour leaders, big players and their overseas buyers remain strict on compliance issues toward sub-contracting firms, hundreds of such firms would face closure and thousands of their workers would lose jobs,” Imrul Kabir, managing partner of the Pinky Fashion said.

“It is not possible for us to maintain one hundred per cent compliance in our factories. But we are trying to ensure all possible facilities like group insurance, fire safety and emergency exit in my factory,” Ahmed Ali, managing director of a BGMEA member factory said.

Mr Ali also said taking clearance from the government agencies is very tough as most of the building owners do not maintain proper design and other necessary documents while building their houses.

Meanwhile, big garment owners take direct manufacturing orders from buyers and, in many cases, they assign their tasks to third party houses to make timely shipments.

The main buyers would usually overlook third-party manufacturing through sub-contracting to the non-compliant factories, but this has now emerged as one of the key thorny issues following frequent disasters in garment factories.

The sub-contracting factories randomly engage child labour in production and other ‘safety devices’ like fire safety, exit facilities and their timely payments are also rarely maintained.

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Mr. Kauser Bhuiyan is a former EU diplomat and Wall-Street professional who gained nearly two decades of professional experience at Accenture, Bloomberg, European Commission and Stein & Partners. He learned professional skills in the areas of Change Management Consulting, International Financial Market, Economic Co-operation and Sustainability Advisory services in Frankfurt, Zurich, London, New York, Brussels, Islamabad and Dhaka. Mr. Bhuiyan can be reached at to[at]bangladeshinside.com
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