The collapse of Rana Plaza sent tremors across the world and once again made people aware of the exploitive nature of globalised industry of which the garment sector is a major part. As producers of apparels for world’s renowned brands, Bangladeshi workers have long been deprived of their rightful wages as well as an environment where safety and security would be ensured. On the 6th anniversary of Rana Plaza collapse, Rashad Ahamad spoke to advocate Mahbubur Rahman Ismail, labour leader Taslima Akhter and injured victim Yanoor Akhter
To improve safety and rights issues of the garment workers in Bangladesh, the government should adopt laws which would bring the entire supply chain of garment production under accountability, said Bangladesh Garment Workers Solidarity president Taslima Akhter.
The supply chain as well as the factory owners, government, brands, buyers and other stakeholders would take the liability of any kind of accident and violation of rights, she said.
For example, she said that in 2017, the French Parliament adopted a new law that imposes due diligence on multinationals’ human rights abuses in supply chains.
The bill was initially proposed as a response to the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, however Bangladesh government took no initiative as yet to consider such move.
The trade union leader said that Bangladesh forgot the clarion call sent to all and sundry following the Rana Plaza collapse which killed over 1,100 workers and which also resulted in the recurrence of deadly accidents in other industries as well in recent times.
She said that the wake-up call of Rana Plaza went unheard.
For example, she said that after Rana Plaza tragedy, there were strings of other mishaps in which hundreds of other workers were killed in the last few years.
She said, on top that, workers’ living wage was not fixed, compensation was not determined following a minimum standard, right to protest and organise were yet to be established while freedom of expression remained a far cry as far as the workers in Bangladesh are concerned, she pointed out.
She observed that neither the government nor the factory owners were aware of the safety and rights issue of workers, rather they treated them as cogs in the machine to make profit.
The workers demanded that April 24 be declared a national mourning day and holiday for the garment sector, but the demand fell on deaf ears.
Taslima said that the victim workers were yet to get justice even though six years have elapsed following the worst industrial disaster of the world, which is the Rana Plaza collapse.
The international brands and buyers forced to improve safety issues in some of the factories, but a huge number of factories still lie outside the list of such standardised factories.
She believed that if the workers were not given living wage they could be abused in different
Since the government always, as a rule, considered rights of the owner before even giving a thought to the rights of the workers, the workers remained eternally ignored,’ she argued.
‘Only a strong trade union movement can ensure workers’ rights in Bangladesh which the government strongly opposes and the authorities are intolerant about. Therefore oppression continues,’ she
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