Acting on compliance issues in the RMG sector

The buyers of readymade garments (RMG) products from Bangladesh have been more and more insisting on the observation of various standards in the RMG industries. In fact, these have become like non tariff barriers in the way of export of RMG products. The buyers also cannot be blamed in many cases for demanding compliance with these issues such as payment of adequate salaries to workers and other benefits to them as well as ensuring of safe working conditions. Law makers, environmental and different civic groups in the importing countries have been making demands on their own businesses to ensure compliance with these standards and the businesses find it hard in many instances to ignore them. However, some of the buyers are noted to be making their exclusive demand on RMG exporters from Bangladesh under the guise of meeting standards.
It is also a fact that RMG producers from Bangladesh have been rather late in waking up to these issues on which depend the sustainability of their export activities . But awareness is not generally absent in respect of them and there are many RMG units which have taken comprehensive measures recognizing that this is indispensable for the secure growth of their exporting activities. But there are also other industries which have not acted on the compliance issues. It is imperative for the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) to take the initiative in identifying such non-compliant units and warn them and extend all sorts of assistance to them in meeting the compliance requirements. The goal should be one of achieving full compliance by all the RMG units at the earliest for the longer term security of the RMG sector as a whole.
The owners of the RMG industries should appreciate the fact that any improvements carried out in the areas of monetary and other benefits of workers, plus their working conditions, would only hedge them against the breakout of the kind of troubles that seemed about to deal fatal blows to the RMG sector several times since 2006. In fact, worse troubles are apprehended from workers after the recent Tazreen fire incident and the Rana Plaza collapse that led to the death of over a thousand workers.
The RMG industries have resumed normal functioning to a great degree since these tragic events. But workers’ discontent are simmering which does not augur well for the industry in any way. Thus, the owners would be both meeting compliance requirements as well as making their enterprises secure against explosions of workers’ wrath by fast taking and implementing decisions to increase wages and other benefits for the workers. Of course, non monetary benefits vitally including comfortable and safe working conditions, should form part of the package of incentives to be given to workers. However, it is also crucial that the government should play a proactive part in these talks and interactions between the owners and workers to ensure a fruitful outcome from the same.
The BGMEA has made a suggestion that the buyers on their own should make a gesture to the RMG exporters by clearly and more significantly, uniformly stating what the compliance issues are so that the RMG producers to tackle them not in an isolated or piecemeal basis but completely. As it is, one RMG unit can be confronted with one compliance issue and another with a completely different one or a unique one. Once the buyers have presented the whole set of compliance issues with the assurance that new ones will not be progressively added to them, it then would become easier for the RMG exporters to absorb them knowing that they would not be pestered with new demands. The BGMEA proposal merits a serious consideration by the buyers. However, the BGMEA on its own needs to also engage in immediate negotiations with the buyers to settle these issues finally. Also significant for the BGMEA is to have a result-oriented dialogue with the buyers so that they feel persuaded to pay a little extra for our garments products which then can be utilized to improve conditions in the factories and pay higher wages.