BGMEA clarifies issues raised by WSJ investigation

 A report by the Wall Street Journal titled “Amazon sells clothes from factories other retailers blacklist”, published on October 23 warrants clarification from BGMEA.

The report is based on an investigation ascertaining the source of certain clothing items on pointing out that some of them were sourced from Bangladesh. The investigation then finds that some of those factories in Bangladesh are not fully compliant with the regulations of Accord or Alliance, which were initiatives set up by major textile importers.

The report mentions several factories and manufacturers. BGMEA will limit this article to just one of those factories in order to illustrate its point.

The report mentions Riverside Apparels as one of the sources, which does not fully comply with the regulations. This small factory has only three production lines and 300 workers, as the report points out, and caters to buyers requiring smaller order quantities. The factory was last inspected on 17 November 2018 and it scored 60 out 100 in the overall assessment of structural, electrical and fire safety, and social compliance. That indicates there is no imminent danger to work in that factory.

There is of course no doubt that the factory has room for improvement. At the same time, there should be no doubt that this factory is not a death chamber either.

These small factories survive on the changing pattern of consumer demand for smaller batches and quantities. But this also creates further opportunities for employment. However, the profits are not such that such establishments will be able to adhere to the stringent standards of Accord or Alliance from the very start. Most of these establishments, and that means all of these establishment barring the exceptions to make the rule, are bona fide manufacturers with incrementally improving safety standards.

In fact, that is also the eventual goal of Accord or Alliance or any such initiative — that factories lacking in safety will make up in future and continue to operate. It is not the intention of these initiatives to black list and close down factories. These factories are too small to stand up to giants like Amazon and bargain a better price that would allow them to initiate all safety measures immediately and the large retailers exploit this advantage fully.

The goal with such instances is not to be punitive to the factory because that would ultimately hurt the worker more than it would hurt the owner, as should be evident in the detailed WSJ investigation. Rather, it must be that such reports and investigations lead to further reforms and corrections of such small manufacturers, which are the new gazelles of the manufacturing era for they hold much promise.