The government has again extended the deadline by up to six months for fixing the flaws of readymade garment (RMG) factories inspected under the national initiative to avoid punitive measures like closure, officials said.
The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) under the labour ministry, extended the deadline in separate meetings with about 323 factories at its office on Wednesday and Thursday, they added.
The meetings were held with the authorities of the factories located in Dhaka, Narsingdi, Mymensingh, Tangail, Gazipur, and Narayanganj, which are on the stage-three of escalation protocol and have been faced postponement of licences renewal from the department.
Headed by labour secretary K M Ali Azam, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Dr Rubana Huq attended the meeting, among others.
Earlier, the government had set April 30, 2018 as the deadline for completing the factory remediation works, but almost all the factories missed the deadline.
In a meeting with the BGMEA leaders and factory owners in June 2018, the then state minister for labour Mujibul Haque had extended the deadline for completing the remediation up to December last year.
The labour secretary warned the factory owners achieving negligible remediation progress of cancelling their utilisation declarations (UDs). "The government does not want to close down any factory, but all the units will have to ensure workplace safety to run their business," he added.
The DIFE officials said that the meeting decided to allow six more months for the factories obtaining 10 to 20 UDs a year and two to four more months for the factories getting more than 20 UDs a year.
After completing the initial inspections in September 2015, the authorities of RMG factories listed under the national initiative continued ignoring DIFE's notices to expedite factory remediation and the government had increased time frame again and again without taking any action, its inspector general Shibnath Roy said.
He said the factories would not get any time extension in future.
Three hearings of three categories of factories would also be held at BGMEA office on October 12, 15 and 19 to decide what categories of factories would get how much time for remediation, he said.
Some 3,780 garment factories were assessed for safety under three initiatives - European retailers' platform Accord, North American buyers' platform Alliance, and the government-led and ILO-supported national initiative.
Of the factories, 1,549 were inspected under the national initiative. Of them, 531 were closed, 69 relocated and 193 transferred to the lists of Accord and Alliance.
According to the government data, factories under the national initiative completed 38 per cent of structural, 39 per cent of electrical and 34 per cent of fire remediation.