Mozena advises Bangladesh to fix workplace safety problems to obtain duty-free privileges from US
US Ambassador Dan Mozena yesterday advised Bangladesh to fix workplace safety and labour rights problems immediately — to obtain duty-free privileges from his country.
The Tazreen fire that killed more than 100 workers was a call to action, the envoy said in his speech on the branding of Bangladesh at an event at Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka.
In the wake of the tragedy, Bangladesh has the choice to address the “serious workplace problems” that continue to impact the garment sector or to do nothing, which would smear ‘Brand Bangladesh’.
“Bangladesh can choose to let the Ashulia fire fade into history and ignore the GSP [generalised system of preferences] review process currently underway in Washington and revert to business as usual in regard to workplace conditions and workers’ rights to associate.”
He added the approach would put off international buyers and consumers from opting for Bangladeshi products and services.
Or, Bangladesh could opt for a different course of action, which, according to Mozena, would enable the underlying issues to be resolved in a “satisfactory” manner.
“It could heed the call to action from the Ashulia fire,” Mozena said, while calling for adequate interior and exterior emergency exits, dedicated sprinkler systems, public address system, emergency lighting, training of mid-level managers and realistic emergency drills, at factories.
Citing the legacy of America’s Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911, he urged factory owners to allow unions so that “workers have a united, credible voice to partner with owners in identifying and resolving workplace safety issues”.
“Organised workers are the key to sustainably dealing with workplace conditions,” Mozena said.
Furthermore, he advocated International Labour Organization’s (ILO) ‘Better Work’ program and urged the country’s factory owners to collaborate with the government to help create an enabling environment that would allow ILO to launch the programme.
“Specifically, the government would need to enact legislation to reform the Labour Law and to start registering legitimate unions in accordance with existing regulations.”
The US ambassador added the steps would also help Bangladesh address some of the issues raised in the pending petition in the US to suspend some or all of Bangladesh’s GSP privileges.
He said Bangladesh has a good opportunity to replace China as the world’s largest exporter of RMG and household textiles.
The country can also become a noteworthy global player, according to Mozena, in footwear, finished leather goods, generic pharmaceuticals, information technology, small freighter construction, frozen fish and shrimp, bone china, jute and silk among others.
“The ingredients are all here: dedicated and hardworking workers; creative and energetic entrepreneurs; a strong and growing agricultural base; rich natural resources, including coal and gas. It’s not a secret — Bangladesh has the potential to become a middle-income nation,” Mozena said.
“Bangladesh is at a crossroads, today. The time for decision is now. Bangladesh needs to decide whether to build Sonar Bangla and become the next Asian Tiger.”
Source: The Daily Star