The High Court has imposed a 6-month ban on Nirapon, a local entity that emerged in place of the North American agency – the Alliance – to oversee building inspection, remediation and monitoring of listed apparel factories in the country.
Nirapon was nominated by 23 fashion brand members and retailers of the Alliance for oversight and independent verification of safety and training compliance in factories, and reporting these results to members. The Alliance left Bangladesh in December last year.
The High Court also asked Nirapon to explain within two weeks why it should not be ordered to join the RMG Sustainability Council, a tripartite compliance and safety monitoring body of the apparel sector that will formally come into being on November 25 this year.
The bench of Justice Moyeenul Islam and Justice Chowdhury Khandaker Diliruzzaman passed the order on Tuesday following a writ petition filed by Mostafa Qamrus Sobhan Rubel, the chairman of Dragon Sweater and Spinning Ltd.
The writ petitioner's lawyer Barrister Imtiaz Moinul Islam told The Business Standard that the RMG Sustainability Council was formed to monitor the work environment in export-oriented garment factories.
"It will unite all safety initiatives and gain trust of foreign buyers. The Accord [a European agency for factory inspection and remediation] is already in the council. Why should Nirapon be left out?" he said.
In September this year, most global brands and retailers, including Accord members, trade union leaders and factory owners' associations BGMEA and BKMEA, formed the RMG Sustainability Council.
On October 1, owners expressed concern to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) over the fees charged by 22 qualified assessment firms and seven local training providers nominated by Nirapon.
An executive director of a garment factory, seeking anonymity, told The Business Standard that Nirapon-nominated qualified assessment firms and local training providers charge a factory around $9,000 to $10,000 annually for their service.
He also alleged the qualified assessment firms charge both new factories and certified factories the same price. But certified factories already have trained engineers and trainers, and are complying with all the safety standards set by the buyers.
Besides, Nirapon's local training providers charge up to $400 as transportation fee for visiting a factory, which is not justified, the factory official alleged.
"Now, [because of additional charges] we have to spend an extra $36,000-$40,000 for four factories annually," said the executive who oversees four apparel factories owned by a business group.
When contacted, Nirapon's Communications Manager MD Yazdani Ul Islam refused to comment because they have not yet received a formal copy of the High Court order.
Officials at Nirapon say that around 600 factories are producing garments for 23 member brands out of the Alliance's 29 brands.
The brands include Abercrombie & Fitch, Canadian Tire, Carter's, Costco Wholesale Corporation, Epic Group, Gap Inc, Giant Tiger, Hudson's Bay Company, International Direct Group, J. C. Penney, Kohl's, Kontoor, Li & Fung, Macy's, OJG, Nordstrom Inc, Public Clothing company inc, Target, The Children's Place, the Warehouse VF, Walmart and YM Inc.