Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) yesterday lauded the improvements in the safety standard at readymade garment industries in Bangladesh and termed the development “revolutionary”.
“The progress in safety that Bangladesh had made in the garment sector over the last three years deserves national and international recognition,” said TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman at a press conference at his office in the capital.
The global anti-graft watchdog yesterday shared its findings of a study titled “Good governance in garment sector: progress, challenges and way forward”. The TIB has been conducting studies on governance in the apparel sector for the last three years after the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013.
After the Rana Plaza disaster, the government and the international stakeholders took 102 initiatives in the RMG sector to improve safety in workplace and labour rights.
Of them, the TIB conducted a research on 68 initiatives last year and found that six of them had been implemented fully while the progress in 39 was satisfactory, 10 were in slow implementation and the progress of 13 initiatives was stagnant.
“Of the total initiatives, Bangladesh achieved a remarkable progress in 77 percent of initiatives while the progress is slow for the remaining 23 percent for establishing governance in garment sector,” Iftekharuzzaman said.
The TIB also praised factory owners for the achievement of 44 percent repair works so far after the inspection by three agencies including Accord, Alliance and the one by the government.
“However, the government and the private sector entrepreneurs have to keep up the safety progress and complete the remaining initiatives for making the sector sustainable,” Iftekharuzzaman said.
After the worst industrial disaster, he said, Bangladesh had made a remarkable progress in allowing unionism in the factories. However, the factory owners would have to bring a change in their mindset so that trade unions could function effectively for realising the demands of the workers.
The TIB chief also said currently 92 percent of factories pay the minimum wage to workers, which is very satisfactory.
Although safety conditions in member factories of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, two major trade bodies in the apparel sector, improved a lot, the conditions did not improve in 700 sub-contracting factories.
So the government and the garment owners have to work to improve the safety conditions in the sub-contracting factories, majority of which are not the members of the two garment trade bodies, he added.
Iftekharuzzaman also urged immediate punishment of those responsible for the Rana Plaza building collapse.
Regarding compensation of the victims, the TIB boss said the payment was made following the guidelines of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). So the compensation payment was transparent, he said.
However, he said that another research could be conducted to find whether the money, which had already been paid to the Rana Plaza victims, was enough for them considering the seriousness of their injuries.
He said the lowest amount paid from the ILO-arranged Rana Plaza Trust Fund was Tk 1.95 lakh while the highest payment was Tk 10 lakh.
The TIB boss also criticised the international retailers and brands, which source garment items from Bangladeshi factories, for not increasing the committed price of products for factory repair work after the inspection by the Accord and Alliance.
The international retailers and brands had committed to pay more for the garment items as a measure to complete the factory repair, he said, adding, “Rather, the prices of Bangladeshi garment items decreased by 41 percent over the last 15 years,” Iftekharuzzaman said.
He also urged the Bangladesh Bank to keep the interest rate of loan of the remediation fund by the international donor agencies, like Japan International Cooperation Agency and the World Bank, at 1 percent so that the factory owners could use the fund easily.
Reports that the banks might disburse the money from the remediation fund at 10 to 15 percent interest rate surfaced recently, although the donor agencies offered the money at 0.01 percent to 0.1 percent interest rates to the central bank, he added.