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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thursday, November 29, 2012
Editorial

Editorial

Lack of compliance at garment factories

The cost is much too great

Those who are saying that Saturday's fire at a garment factory which killed 111 people comes as a warning, albeit a costly one, are wrong. Though the deadliest fire to date, it is certainly not the first, there have been more despite such warnings. Over 300 people have been killed in garment factory fires in the last six years. The reasons for the colossal losses to life and property have all been the same or similar. Lack of emergency exits -- indeed, lack of any exit, with workers being locked in to the premises. Lack of proper fire drills -- in fact, factory officials have often been reluctant to let the workers stop work and leave the building, whether for a drill or in the case of an actual fire; absence of fire extinguishers, or functioning ones, or staff who know how to operate them; lack of proper building planning and construction. All at the cost of thousands of lives that, on a good day, work from nine up to even 24 hours, for minimum wages of Tk. 3,000 per month; and, on a bad day, end up in ashes in a mass grave.

Though criticism from people and the press and pressure from foreign buyers have resulted in some improvement over the years, much, much more remains to be done. And the latest tragedy is anything but a warning. It is an all too common and fatal repetition of history. It can, and must, be ended through multifaceted efforts from the factory owners, business associations, the government and foreign buyers. As a leading economist has pointed out recently, compliance is not cheap, and even buyers go to less compliant companies for lower prices. Garment factory workers are also barred from forming trade unions, a violation of their basic labour rights, which prevents them from unionising against poor working conditions and pay.

For a 20-billion USD industry that accounts for 80% of the country's exports and a major share of its GDP; an industry that has turned around the nation's economy, not to mention the lives of the owners; the least we can do for those on whose hard labour it runs, is ensure their safety. May there never be another repetition of such a tragedy.

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How a world renowned brand in chain shopping like Wal-Mart can possibly acquire the manufactured product from a particular factory which has absolutely no compliance of workers safety issue? Wal-Mart simply cannot get away from this responsibility as they are very much part of it. As per US law Wal-Mart has a responsibility to ensure their entire chains of suppliers including the sub-contractors are abiding by the same standard rules. Wal-Mart must release its legal documents openly to public.

: Sheikh Monirul Islam, Opee

The buyers, suppliers, manufacturers, factory owners, BGMEA, NKMEA, FBCCI every one of them are allowed to form unions & associations to form powerful lobby group locally & internationally, form associations, exert political pressure via all those networks, even the law enforcement agencies are often in their pockets...why must the poor workers should be allowed to suffer from their basic rights in our country which has signed the ILO charters…how is that possible? US, UK, EU and all those countries who are getting cheap products from the labour of these poor victims…why the developed world is keeping mum on this issue? Where is the role of WTO on this occasion? This is very mysterious and it is a very mind boggling question? We feel terribly hopeless!

: OpeeMonir

Comments

  • Dr. Iftikhar-ul-Awwal, DU
    Thursday, November 29, 2012 12:35 AM GMT+06:00 (104 weeks ago)

    Bangladesh is increasingly attracting the attention of garment buyers from developed countries. This is mainly due to the competitive edge that Bangladesh enjoys in its manufacture. Of the various component factors of production; the lower cost of labor productivity makes the major difference. Wages are in fact the lowest in South Asia. Moreover, factories are lax in the observance of statutory rules and regulations to minimize capital expenditure, both fixed and working. It is only by compromising with labor and safety standards that we are able to push through our products internationally. Furthermore, BGMEA and BKMEA have emerged as monopolistic apex bodies that regulate and negotiate skillfully both with the government and the labor representatives and are able to convince the foreign buyers in the matter of compliance. It reminds me of the jute mill scenario during undivided India where Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA) worked in similar fashion. But then the trade unions in colonial times were strong, ILO was extremely vigilant, and the nationalist politicians took active interest in labor welfare. Thus the workers got a comparatively better deal than industries located outside bigger cities like Calcutta, say in the tea estates or the collieries. Very unfortunately, even compared to colonial times, Bangladesh does not allow trade unions to operate in RMG sector; neither is government enthusiastic about labor matters, nor do politicians taking any positive interest. The disinterest in labor matters may be the reflection of high percentage of businessmen in Parliament and due also to RMG sector’s contribution to election funds. Under the circumstances, the pressure of ILO, EU, USA and other large stake holders to comply with international standards of safety and payment of wages is unavoidable-rather is highly desirable.

  • rch
    Thursday, November 29, 2012 08:32 AM GMT+06:00 (104 weeks ago)

    Again, Wal-mart did not have contract with factory--go to the wal-mart Website! Also the contract was with Tuba who violated the Wal-mart terms and seconded the production to Tazreen--let's get this legal fact first. Now all the Disney clothes found at Tazreen were not ordered by Disney so Tazreen was also making knockoffs violating trademark laws---so, this was not first rodeo of the Owner of Tazreen/Tuba -- he is in breaking laws.

  • OpeeMonir
    Thursday, November 29, 2012 12:14 AM GMT+06:00 (104 weeks ago)

    The buyers, suppliers, manufacturers, factory owners, BGMEA, NKMEA, FBCCI every one of them are allowed to form unions & associations to form powerful lobby group locally & internationally, form associations, exert political pressure via all those networks, even the law enforcement agencies are often in their pockets...why must the poor workers should be allowed to suffer from their basic rights in our country which has signed the ILO charters…how is that possible? US, UK, EU and all those countries who are getting cheap products from the labour of these poor victims…why the developed world is keeping mum on this issue? Where is the role of WTO on this occasion? This is very mysterious and it is a very mind boggling question? We feel terribly hopeless!


 

 


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