‘No time to waste anymore, factory inspections need to start’
Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Tuesday said all the stakeholders in the readymade garment (RMG) sector must focus on preventing accidents and protecting lives of workers and help the vital industry grow and prosper further.
“We must focus on preventing accidents and protecting the lives of workers,” he told a function at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel after launching a US$ 24.21-million initiative aimed at improving working conditions in Bangladesh’s RMG industry.
The government and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have launched the initiative, including a new Better Work programme. The United Kingdom and the Netherlands are jointly contributing USD $15 million to the programme, and the ILO is mobilising further resources.
The Finance Minister laid emphasis on joint efforts from the government, owners, buyers and support from the employees to overcome the challenges and said top management of the factories will have to take responsibility to ensure a safe environment.
Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni, Labour and Employment Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju, ERD Secretary M Abul Kalam Azad, Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar, British High Commissioner in Dhaka Robert Gibson, Netherlands Ambassador Gerben Sjoerd de Jong, ILO Country Director Srinivas B Reddy and ERD Additional Secretary M Ashadul Islam also spoke at the launching and signing ceremony.
Speaking as the chief guest, Muhith said they have been working with hand in hands and hard for the safety and security of the workers in the crucial sector.
“This initiative will contribute towards improving working conditions in this sector and ensuring more stable growth of the RMG industry,” he said adding that the initiative will create a culture of compliance.
The Finance Minister said the government is more encouraged by the support of the development partners and international community for the betterment of the RMG industry here.
Dipu Moni said the country’s RMG sector faced many challenges in the past and ILO was active partner in overcoming those challenges. “ILO is here again as a tested and capable partner.”
She said Bangladesh remains confident that it will be able to address the challenges of the present and of the future together.
The Foreign Minister said there is a growing focus on developing eco-friendly factories and industry and the government and owners of factories are mindful of this.
She further said: “There’s a deepening convergence of interests – from the global community and Bangladesh to work together in supporting our RMG industry: least for supporting lives and livelihoods of four million of our people involved with the industry or, for all-encompassing women empowerment.”
Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo said, “ILO has played a long-term role in Bangladesh, with extensive involvement in the RMG sector prior to the Tazreen Fashions fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse.”
This programme will provide support in implementing the National Tripartite Plan of Action on fire safety and structural integrity. Successful implementation of the programme will ensure better working conditions and safety for the readymade garment workers in Bangladesh, he added.
Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju said, “The government has initiated some substantive works on occupational safety and health for the ready-made garment sector workers. I would like to acknowledge my gratitude to the development partners who have provided support in this initiative.”
British envoy Robert Gibson said everyone involved – Government bodies, buyers and brands, and garment manufacturers need to take responsibility in ensuring long-term, sustainable improvements in the health and safety and working conditions in the garment industry in Bangladesh.
“Not only is this the right thing to do, as each individual garment worker’s life matters, it’ll also ensure that Bangladesh is in a good position to capitalise on future opportunities,” he said.
If it does not do this, it risks losing its position in future years as it will become too much of a risk to the brands’ reputations, the British diplomat said.
He said Britain is committed to Bangladesh’s development and its ambition of achieving middle-income status within the next decade. “Its economic prosperity and social development are important to us, as it is also to the half a million people of Bangladeshi origin living in the UK.”
Gibson also said brands and buyers that have signed up to the groundbreaking Accord and the Alliance, five-year programmes to improve health and safety in the garment factories they source from in Bangladesh, including structural inspections, are also demonstrating their commitment to help drive change.
Netherlands envoy Gerben Sjoerd de Jong urged the government, the alliance and the accord group reach an agreement on the common inspection standards. “No time to lose anymore. The inspections need to start.”
The diplomat said the image of the RMG sector in Bangladesh is shattered, and it will not be restored overnight. “This programme can help the sector make progress, especially with clear results being exposed in a transparent way.”
The envoy also said radical transparency is essential and it can change ‘Made in Bangladesh’ from a near taboo label to a label of pride. “We want workers to be safe and have a voice. We don’t want consumers to feel guilty of wearing clothes made in Bangladesh.”
The three-and-a-half year initiative, ‘Improving Working Conditions in the Ready-Made Garment Sector’ – (RMGP) focuses on minimising the threat of fire and building collapse in ready-made garment factories and on ensuring the rights and safety of workers.
It has been developed in collaboration with government, employers’ and workers’ representatives in response to a number of industrial accidents in the sector, including the Rana Plaza building collapse in April in which more than 1,100 workers died.
This Programme builds on ongoing ILO interventions and compliments the Fire Safety, Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and Labour Relations initiatives funded by the US Department of Labor and the Kingdom of Norway.
As part of the new programme, the ILO and the International Finance Corporation also announced the launch of a Better Work programme in Bangladesh. This will complement the RMG programme by implementing factory-level activities to improve compliance with national labour laws and respect for international core labour standards while promoting the competitiveness of participating factories.
Source: UNB Connect