RMG sector in Bangladesh: One year on from tragic Rana Plaza collapse

| July 29, 2014 | 0 Comments

h_50804486The ready made garment (RMG) industry of Bangladesh came under global focus last year, but under very tragic circumstances.

Just a month ago was the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse when more than 1,100 people were killed and 2,500 were injured when a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed.

Ismat Jahan, the Bangladesh ambassador to the EU, said that such commemoration events are “important opportunities for reflections and stock taking”.

She added: “What went wrong , what can and must be done and where we stand? The Rana Plaza tragedy as well as the Tazreen fire tragedy have no doubt left indelible scar in our collective memory. This has however , acted as a wake-up call, although one must admit that it came at a very high cost with the loss of many valuable lives.”

She said there is now a growing national reawakening in Bangladesh that much needs to be done to improve factory safety and labour rights in the RMG sector which accounts for more than 80% of the country´s exports and provides employment to 4 million people, mostly women.

“There are many and varied challenges to ensure a safe and sustainable RMG industry and the Bangladesh government is determined to address these challenges with the cooperation and support from relevant stakeholders.”

She said Bangladesh is partnering with International labour Organization (ILO), the European Union and other development partners, including the UK, Canada, the Netherlands in taking “concrete” actions towards definite and measurable outcomes in addressing the safety, security and labour issues in the RMG sector.

“There has been “notable progresses made during the past year and the recent statement of the EU Trade Commissioner’s spokesperson on the occasion of the first anniversary of Rana Plaza building collapse acknowledged that the EU has seen significant progress in the areas of occupational safety and health and in the improved respect for labour rights in Bangladesh.”

The diplomat added: “Bangladesh deeply values the support that it has been receiving from the EU as a development partner. Bangladesh benefits from the EBA (preferred trading area) arrangement it enjoys in the EU market. This has contributed significantly to enhance RMG as the main export item to Europe in the post-MFA period.

“Therefore, should the RMG sector suffer, a sizable portion of development gains in Bangladesh would be at risk. At the same time, the success of EBA in Bangladesh, as a EU foreign policy tool for socio-economic uplift and empowerment of women, can be showcased. It would therefore, be to the mutual interest of Bangladesh and the EU to see the unfettered continuation of EBA facility.

“To this end, Bangladesh has welcomed any such initiatives which promote engagement with the EU to ensure safe working conditions and improved labour rights in the RMG factories. In similar vein, Bangladesh would also expect the EU to play a proactive role in ensuring ‘fair pricing’ of its RMG exports including through further engagement of the brands.

“It is reported that unit price of garment import from Bangladesh has gone down significantly since the Rana Plaza collapse at a time when manufacturers are now compelled to pay much more in terms of higher wages, transport and utility charges. While a rise in wages is logical, at the same time the declining trend of pricing of RMG products from Bangladesh must be addressed resolutely. Otherwise the effort of improving the working condition in the factories would not be sustainable in the long run. It is also imperative for private initiatives to fulfill their obligation following the closure of factories which are found unsafe after inspection. They must be forthcoming in paying their share in the lost wages of the laid off workers. This is all about working in concert to improve safety and change the lives of the workers who produce for them. “

It is estimated that following the closure of 16 factories so far, some 18,000 workers have turned jobless overnight.

She said that the EU may encourage brands and retailers to make necessary provisions for sharing the costs of renovation of the factories from where they source in.

“This would ensure timely and safe reopening of the closed factories.”

“The improvement of working conditions would be largely incomplete if the present initiatives fail to incorporate sub-contractor factories under the corrective measures. There is an apparent lack of understanding among all stakeholders in this regard. The private initiatives are concerned about only those factories from which they directly imports which stands at merely 2,000 factories .Thus a significant numbers of factories out of the total 4,000 active factories would remain beyond the purview of thorough inspection. There is an urgent need to address the situation and improve the working condition and safety issues in all the production units of the RMG supply chains.”

The ambassador said: “The Bangladesh Government is steadfast in its commitment to bring about the right kind of changes in the RMG sector in Bangladesh with the continuous support and engagement of all stakeholders and development partners as well social partners. It is a collective endeavour. It is often said that conditions of great adversity bring out the best in people.

Bangladesh must not falter. It must strive to bring the best out of this situation. There is a need for sustained and resolute partnership to achieve that very goal.”

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Category: A Frontpage, Bangladesh, Disasters, World

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