Transparency International Bangladesh on Thursday said that justice had yet to be done in industrial accidents, including Rana Plaza building collapse, because of lack of political will and scope to influence judicial system.
‘It is unfortunate that scope to influence judicial system prevails in Bangladesh and politically influential quarter can influence the justice system,’ TIB trustee board chairman Sultana Kamal said at a press conference releasing study report on apparel sector held at corruption watchdog office in Dhaka.
She said that the trial in Rana Plaza building collapse case remained at a halt as the ‘influential’ accused obtained stay of the proceedings from the High Court.
Sultana Kamal alleged that following the building collapse, some measures had been taken in the apparel sector by the factory owners to protect business and increase export but no to secure the workers or their interests.
‘There are many reasons for failure to bring the people responsible for Rana Plaza building collapse to book and we think that there is lack of political willingness,’ TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman said.
In the report titled ‘Good governance in the RMG sector: progress and challenges’, TIB recommended that a speedy trial tribunal should be set up for the disposal of cases of industrial accidents.
It also suggested that a single authority should be set up to coordinate regulatory issues to ensure transparency in the apparel sector as factory owners needed to obtain licenses and clearances from 17 departments in absence of coordination among the regulatory bodies.
The study found that 4,356 factories were inspected under three initiatives – Accord, Alliance and National Action Plan – and 68 per cent of the factories achieved significant progress in remediation while the progress in rest 32 per cent factories was below 50 per cent.
TIB considered the initiative to establish garment village at Mirsarai Industrial Park as a positive progress while lack of initiative to relocate subcontracting factories to the industrial park and no progress in formulating subcontracting guidelines identified as challenges.
The study listed challenges for the apparel sector, including lack of financial and technical support for the remediation coordination cell in implementing corrective action plan in the factories and risk of dominance of factory owners not for including provision for appointing neutral experts in the cell.
According to the study, 98 per cent of compliant factories pay their workers as per the wage board award while the workers of most of the small and subcontracting factories were not getting the minimum wages.
Citing the minimum wages in others apparel exporting countries, including Cambodia, India Pakistan, Philippine and Vietnam, the study showed that Bangladeshi apparel workers were the lowest paid in the world.
Among the competing countries, the size of gross domestic product of Bangladesh and Cambodia is almost same and comparing with the minimum wages of Cambodia the minimum wages for Bangladeshi apparel workers should be $202 a month, the study showed.
The study observed that following Rana Plaza building collapse, factory owners had taken measures to protect their business and export but the rights and social protection of workers remained ignored.
The issue of compensation for the victims of factory accidents and terminated workers, maternity benefits and freedom of association are yet to reach expected level of progress, it said.
Following the Rana Plaza building collapse, various stakeholders had taken a 102 initiatives regarding implementation of law, capacity building of regulatory bodies, labour rights and workplace safety.
The study found that 39 per cent of initiative was implemented while 41 per cent was in progress and 20 per cent remained stalled.
Iftekharuzzaman said that apparel sector achieved some progress in the past five years but it was not satisfactory and workers were not getting the benefits of the progress.
He said that the number of trade union increased but there was confusion over the effectiveness of the unions as the mentality of the factory owners were not workers friendly.
It is a matter of concern that the Rana Plaza victims are yet to get compensation and it is a collative failure of the government, factory owners and buyers, he said.
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