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Apparel makers voice concern over 'Nirapon' activities

Monira Munni | October 03, 2019 00:00:00

Apparel makers have raised concern over the activities of recently formed new platform 'Nirapon' alleging that it has been creating confusion over safety standards and adding new cost burden in the name of monitoring and training.

They also alleged that Nirapon is creating market for service providers, especially for local training provider (LTP) and qualified assessment firm (QAF), which the manufacturers cannot afford after investing huge amount of money in the industry to ensure workplace safety during last five years.

The concerns were raised at a views exchange meeting of stakeholders organised by Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) on September 29.

Nirapon has been formed this year by 23 brands and retailers, including Walmart, based on North America.

Majority of them were the signatory of Alliance that folded its operation in last December. Alliance inspected fire, electrical and structural integrity of some 700 garment factories and remediated the flaws in last five years after the Rana Plaza building collapse.

Almost all the meeting participants expressed concern over the high cost they have to bear ranging from US$ 400 to $ 12,000 to maintain Nirapon's prescription.

The factory owners also alleged in the meeting that Nirapon is implementing the same training module of Alliance.

"After the departure of Alliance, factories have been conducting in-house training on health and safety and maintaining safety standards prescribed by the Alliance. So, fulfilling the old requirements on compliance issue in a new format will be wastage of time and labour," the meeting was told.

Besides, the BGMEA has been informed that Nirapon would identify service providers capable of supporting regular supplier monitoring, remediation, capacity building and training. The suppliers have to work directly with service providers under the supervision of Nirapon.

Nirapon has qualified some 22 QAFs and seven LTPs. Only six out of 22 QAFs have expertise on the three areas of safety issues - fire, electrical and structural, a BGMEA member said on condition of anonymity.

Majority of the service providers are formed with the inspectors who worked for Alliance, he said, alleging that they are not capable enough to carrying out the required activities.

"The QAFs' quoted prices are exorbitantly high which are not affordable. For example, quoted price for a group of five factories was between $ 1.48 million and $ 2.05 million," he noted.

Nirapon has given rate chart to certain factories to engage QAFs and LTPs and asked certain factories to negotiate price at their own, another member said.

"This would be a never-ending financial burden on the factories as Nirapon has a viewpoint to extend the market of service providers," he feared.

When asked, BGMEA president Dr Rubana Huq said they held a meeting and conveyed the members' concerns to the Nirapon top officials.

"We have also proposed Nirapon to bring on board the proposed RMG Sustainability Council similar to Accord to ensure a safe and secure monitoring model which would ensure a safe workplace," she noted.

The proposal also included reducing scope of maintenance audits which will result in a substantial reduction in the scope and fees for BGMEA members, she said.

The FE correspondent communicated with Nirapon official, but did not get any response till filing of the report at 8.30 pm.

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