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Pressure mounting on govt to reinstate 'Nirapon' activities

Local apparel markers against it due to additional cost burden

MONIRA MUNNI | December 03, 2019 00:00:00

Pressure is mounting from different quarters on the government of Bangladesh and other stakeholders to reinstate Nirapon's activities for improving worker safety in the country's readymade garment (RMG) industry, industry people said.

The restoration is imperative to sustain the gains achieved so far and provide the worker with safety assurance which is necessary to the retailers, they added.

The latest call came from the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) with over 2.1 million workers and contribution of CDN $377 billion in annual retail sales.

"Halting Nirapon's efforts not only puts millions of lives at risk, but also undermines confidence that the progress made in Bangladesh will be sustained," the RCC said in the letter wrote to the prime minister of Bangladesh on November 28.

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

Majority of them were the signatory of Alliance that 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, and folded its operation in last December.

The advocacy voice of retail in Canada said: "We are troubled by the news from Bangladesh that Nirapon - an organisation that provides our members with assurance that workers in your country are protected - has been suspended at this time."

For the past six years, the Bangladesh government's partnership with international business has greatly improved the safety of 4.0 million workers and has made Bangladesh a model for other countries to follow.

The government's work has also led to the recent growth of the country's footwear and travel-goods industries.

"As a result, these sectors now drive your nation's export earnings and economy. Bangladesh is poised to take advantage of the opportunities presented by today's global market, however that growth is threatened by hindering the work of Nirapon - and its commitment to worker safety," the letter reads.

Retailers' concerns in the absence of Nirapon in Bangladesh included reduced transparency and visibility to structural, electrical and fire-safety risks at suppliers' factories, no independent third-party counsel or recommendations related to audit assessments from Qualified Audit Firms (QAFs), a lack of advocacy and support for workers and no path for employees to voice their concerns related to safety to membership groups, it said

Citing Niropon's role to promote a culture of safety in factories, the RCC said their initiatives assist in developing local capacity to ensure worker safety in Bangladesh. Nirapon's efforts help to reinforce the work by your government and others to improve worker safety.

"Halting Nirapon's efforts not only puts millions of lives at risk, but also undermines confidence that the progress made in Bangladesh will be sustained," it said, requesting the government and other key stakeholders to support the protection of Bangladeshi workers by pushing for reinstatement of Nirapon.

The High Court on October imposed a six-month ban on activities of Nirapon following a writ petition filed by a local garment factory.

Apparel markers, on September 29, at a views exchange meeting of its trade body, raised concern over the activities of Nirapon alleging that it had been creating confusion over safety standards and adding new cost burden in the name of monitoring and training.

They also alleged that Nirapon was creating market for service providers, especially for local training providers and qualified assessment firms, which the manufacturers could not afford after investing huge amount of money in the industry to ensure workplace safety in last five years.


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