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Monday, January 14, 2013
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Garment Safety

Europe now takes US cue

The European Parliament is set to hold a discussion on Wednesday on the working conditions in Bangladesh's garment factories.

The discussion on Bangladesh is part of a three-day plenary session starting today.

Parliamentarians will also talk about health and safety at work, occupational medicine, pay structure, labour rights, trade union and corporate social responsibility in Bangladesh, according to the European Parliament website and the commerce ministry in Dhaka.

The move comes in the wake of the Tazreen fire that killed at least 112 workers, the commerce ministry said in a document, citing a letter from the European Union (EU) sent through the Bangladesh embassy in Brussels.

“We have received a letter from the EU a few days ago and we have already replied to it,” Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed told The Daily Star by phone.

In a separate letter, the Bangladesh ambassador urged the commerce ministry to urgently take all necessary measures to prevent any kind of “negative propaganda” against Bangladesh.

A foreign traders' association in Brussels informed the ambassador of its wish not to buy garment products from factories in Bangladesh with inadequate fire-safety measures, according to the letter.

Europe, which is Bangladesh's largest export destination, buys 60 percent of the nation's garment products.

Meanwhile, the US is threatening to cancel the generalised system of preferences (GSP) facility for Bangladesh, with the unsafe working conditions in factories being one of the reasons.

Bangladesh's delay in singing the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (TICFA) could be another reason, Commerce Minister GM Quader said at a separate event in Dhaka.

“The recent US government move on the GSP facility might have indirectly been linked to the TICFA,” Quader said.

Given this backdrop the commerce ministry, in consultation with the different stakeholders, has been preparing the country's 'position paper' to be presented at the next hearing of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in March.

“The USTR asked Bangladesh to submit the position paper by January 31,” the commerce secretary, Mahbub Ahmed, told reporters after a consultation meeting at his secretariat.

The USTR in a letter sent to the commerce minister wanted to know the improvements Bangladesh made over the years in four broad areas -- ready-made garment (RMG) sector, shrimp processing sector, export processing zone (EPZ) and fire safety.

With regards to the RMG sector, the USTR wanted to know the progress made in the registration of trade unions, the investigation into the abduction and murder of labour leader Aminul Islam and the appointment of labour advocate or ombudsman.

The USTR wanted to know the progress made in resolving the recent indecent working conditions in the shrimp sector, Ahmed said.

Regarding EPZ, the USTR sought details about progress in Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority's plan to abolish rules that blacklist workers for labour protests.

On fire safety, the USTR wants to know whether Bangladesh would seek help from the US, the International Labour Organisation or a third party for a baseline analysis of fire fighting capacity and introduce a hotline for fire information.

“We have improved significantly in many areas. I hope the USTR will be satisfied with the measures Bangladesh has taken particularly in improving the fire safety and compliances,” Ahmed said.

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Bangladesh does not have the edge of comparative advantages for producing garments for export. What Bangladesh is actually doing is selling cheap and unskilled labour at a very high cost for the country at large and the Bangladeshi labourers and environments in particular. I say all these with my 30 years experience with garment import from Bangladesh.

Crude economic theory accepts labour as an input in production, but human beings are not production materials and the misuse of labour force must be a great sin. Let us also not forget that the big foreign companies import from Bangladesh not because they love to see poor people improving their lots but because it is cheap. Foreign buyers often squeeze prices as low as below the production costs. GSP kept this business and slave labour alive all these years. Now the time is out, the sooner Bangladesh understands it is better. What Bangladesh needs to do is to engage fruitful discussion immediately with the entrepreneurs, government and labour leaders and invest her limited resources in producing goods for which there are safe market at home and abroad while slowly dismantling this industry.

: An importer from Bangladesh

This all may be designed to bring an unstable political environment as we witnessed happen with the so called Arab Spring. Bangladesh, please look beyond the tactics of the globalists. This is about more than workers rights which of course needs be improved.

Radicalism is the agenda of the West! Examine the outcomes not the rhetoric.

: Ron


  • Jumana Sarwar
    Monday, January 14, 2013 01:47 AM GMT+06:00 (160 weeks ago)

    The poor garment workers burning beyond recognition upset many stomachs in home and abroad. Meanwhile our government is seeking conspiracy theory to protect the owners directly responsible for their death even though it may not be 1st or 2nd degree murder but certainly a man slaughter. The denial of workers rights and to large extent the people's right will serve no one. In the long run, the golden eggs will not be there anymore.

  • msn
    Monday, January 14, 2013 04:18 AM GMT+06:00 (160 weeks ago)

    Not only in the garment factories but also in the construction field,workers are ignored about safety measures.For any loss of life or limb,higher authority of the incumbent working field should be given exemplary punishment .Therefore,a government should not be indifferent to ensure safety to the poor workers who are contributing a lot to progress our economy.

  • Nasim Hasan
    Monday, January 14, 2013 08:18 AM GMT+06:00 (160 weeks ago)

    Another great success story of AL government. A central effluent treatment plant in DEPZ was an electoral promise of them which seems to be in deep darkness until now.

  • Shabbir A Bashar
    Monday, January 14, 2013 08:56 AM GMT+06:00 (160 weeks ago)

    112 deaths that are dismissed as sabotage - without any evidence - doesn't sound like significant improvement to me. What specific corrective action did you take? What specific preventive action did you take? You might get away with treating the people of this country like a bunch of fools but today's global consumer has access to information and reserves the right to use their conscience. Please stop all this nonsense talk and show some tangible action.

  • Salahuddin Ayubi
    Monday, January 14, 2013 10:37 AM GMT+06:00 (160 weeks ago)

    Our foreign ministry has failed to realise that it is still the unipolar world that we live in and we have to maintain a good and harmonious relationship with leader of the world. You can not live in the jungle having strained relation with Tiger. This fact our FM did not realise.

  • mong pru
    Monday, January 14, 2013 11:29 AM GMT+06:00 (160 weeks ago)

    Our government should be alert on the changed situation of the garments sector, and do proper investigation into all the violations either directly by the factory owners or indirectly by the BGMEA and FBCCI, before the entire sector goes out of control and out of the interest of the nation. Only then the government can clarify its stand.

  • Md Shahjahan
    Monday, January 14, 2013 02:13 PM GMT+06:00 (160 weeks ago)

    It all helps our poor garments women.





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