US ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat on Monday said that the government of Bangladesh was yet to ensure workers’ rights in the readymade garment sector including rights to organise, bargain collectively and raise safety concerns.
If workers do not have the ability to speak out, fire and other safety concerns can again arise as workers’ rights and work place safety are fully integrated, the ambassador said while speaking at a discussion on ‘The State of Fire Safety in Bangladesh’ held at Hotel Sonargaon in the city. The discussion was organised by International Labour Organisation and supported by the US Department of Labour.
She said that the government, the ILO and two buyers-based organisations-- Accord and Alliance-- provided support and worked with thousand of factories to implement remediation plans and enforce the standards on factory owners that did not comply.
As a result, Bangladesh RMG industry is now much safer place for workers, Bernicat said.
The envoy said that after the Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse Bangladesh has made significant progress in ensuring workplace safety but the government and RMG sector are yet to ensure that they fully protected the rights of workers under Bangladesh law including rights to organise, bargain collectively and raise safety concerns.
Accord and Alliance inspected half of the 4,000 garment factories and remediation work like fire door and sprinkler installation need investment, but improving safety is win-win situation for businesses, Bernicat said.
‘Here is a story of an owner, who has completed all the remediation efforts, and has seen 20 per cent in crease of productivity,’ she said.
About the completion of remediation, the envoy said that much more remains to do. So it is way too early to anticipate that the mission will be accomplished by July 2018.
‘I encourage Bangladesh government and the private sector to work in a collaborated and open manner with these partners, specificity with the Accord and Alliance,’ the ambassador said.
She said that the goal of the US is to help create a culture of safety and improve capacity of Bangladesh’s fire and building safety institutions.
ILO country director Srinivas Reddy said that the fire services have made significant progress in raising awareness and building capacity of its professionals, partners, and volunteers on fire safety.
Through exchange of knowledge and support from institutions of best practices, the fire services is well on its way to realising its goal of modernisation and building its capacity to provide the services the society requires, he said,
‘While many steps have been taken, efforts to enhance fire safety must continue. Awareness and preparedness must continually be raised while there is also the need for more effective legislation to underpin these efforts,’ Reddy said.
Fire Service and Civil Defence Director General Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan said on an average some 15,000 fire incidents took place across the country in a year while 55 per cent was electrical and the second highest—14 per cent—for cigarette.
In 2016, there were 311 fire incidents in the RMG sector while 143 were doused by the fire fighters of the factory management, he said.
Ahmed said that 75 to 80 per cent fire in RMG factories occurred from electrical glitch.
National Coordination Committee for Workers Education secretary general Wazed-ul-Islam Khan said that the government and factory owners should ensure workers representation in the safety activities for sustainable development.
Demanding rights of trade union in the factories, Industriall Bangladesh Council secretary general Kutubuddin Ahmed said trade union can identify the problems and take up the matter to the concerned authorities.
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