Garment factory owners want a unified inspection mechanism for the industry instead of Nirapon as it charges them excessively.
Nirapon is a newly launched local self-regulating platform to oversee the building, inspection and remediation of listed apparel factories in Bangladesh. Earlier, Alliance had been providing safety monitoring, oversight and reporting services for the North American brands and buyers.
There are 21 member brands including Walmart and over 600 factories under Nirapon.
The readymade garment factory owners expressed their concern to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) over the fees charged by the 22 Qualified Assessment Firms (QAFs) and seven Local Training Providers (LTPs) nominated by Nirapon.
Seeking anonymity, executive director of a garment factory told The Business Standard that, "Qualified Assessment Firms (QAFs) and Local Training Providers (LTPs) nominated by Nirapon charge around $9,000 to $10,000 for a factory."
He also alleged that Nirapon's Qualified Assessment Firms charge the same rate for new factories and certified old factories. But, the certified factories already have trained engineers and trainers and they are following all the safety standards set by the buyers.
Nirapon's Local Training Providers charge up to $400 as transportation fee for visiting a factory, which is not justified, he complained.
"Now we have to spend about $36,000-$40,000 extra for four factories annually," said the executive who oversees four apparel factories owned by a business group.
BGMEA sources said, they held a closed door meeting on last Sunday with the owners of some 428 garment factories over Nirapon related issues.
In that meeting the garment factory owners voiced their demand for a unified inspection mechanism under the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), which was recently formed by the BGMEA, Accord and the trade unions.
According to the BGMEA officials, about 60 percent factories have certified engineers and trainers and they are following the safety standards set by the buyers. These factories also provide regular training for their workers, engineers and instructors.
The brands set four training modules which are safety committee, fire committee, security committee and safety management.
The factory owners requested BGMEA to arrange a workshop for their trainers to ensure proper implementation of these four modules.
At the meeting with BGMEA some factory owners alleged that US brand Walmart have been putting pressure on them to sign an agreement with Nirapon.
However, in a recent letter to the garment manufacturers, Walmart emphasised the necessity to continue the safety training for the garment factory workers.
It said that continuing the safety training is necessary for building a partnership with Walmart.
In that letter Walmart also asked the suppliers to contact Nirapon if the local training providers charged excessive fees.
When contacted, The BGMEA President Rubana Huq said, they had a good discussion with Nirapon on Monday night.
Nirapon assured BGMEA that they will study its proposal and documents of RSC carefully over the next couple of months.
Meanwhile, BGMEA will be offering their members those services free of charge and evaluating them on behalf of brands and Nirapon, said Rubana.
"Till then they (Nirapon) continue with their initiative but BGMEA have offered to inspect and train factories as LTP and QAF ourselves," she added.
Nirapon will let BGMEA know its decision by tomorrow (Wednesday).
When contacted, Professor Jamilur Reza Choudhury, chairman of the board of Nirapon and Moushumi M Khan, CEO of Nirapon refused to comment on the matter.