Garment industry in Bangladesh

One year after Rana Plaza: Progress and the Way Forward

Employer and union representatives join the ILO, donors and Government of Bangladesh representatives at a high-level event in Dhaka to mark the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy.

Press release | 24 April 2014
DHAKA –Speakers at a high-level event to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy stressed their commitment to continue to work together to ensure the safety and rights of workers in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector in Bangladesh.

“It has been a year of continuous efforts by the Government of Bangladesh towards the goal of ensuring safety for the workers and to prevent another Rana Plaza type incident in the future,” said Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, Minister of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment.

“We have already upgraded the Chief Inspector of Factories and Establishments office to a department, sanctioning 679 new staff positions in the Directorate, including 392 new inspectors. This fulfils the major promise made in the National Tripartite Plan of Action (NTPA), and the current government is committed to continue its effort,” he added.

A minute of silence was observed in remembrance of the 1,135 who lost their lives in the collapse of Rana Plaza on 24 April 2013. Most of the victims were workers from the ready-made garment (RMG) factories housed in the building.

The Government of Bangladesh and the ILO are implementing a three-and-a-half-year initiative aimed at improving working conditions in the RMG sector in Bangladesh. The USD $24.21 million RMG programme is funded by Canada, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Looking back at the past year Gilbert Houngbo, ILO Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnerships, said he was encouraged by what had been achieved and stressed the importance of keeping up momentum to deliver on all aspects of the NTPA.

“Much has been done. Now the factory inspections must be completed, compensation claims processed and the labour law implemented in full. The increased number of factory unions is a significant step towards improved workers’ rights. Training for the new unions and employers is essential, so that a better future for the RMG sector can be built on social dialogue,” Houngbo said.

“We also need to think ahead in terms of preparedness, through a workplace injury insurance scheme for example,” he added.

Under the RMG Programme, the ILO is providing support in terms of coordinating inspections and technical assistance, including training and logistics to the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) for inspecting factory buildings, both for structural integrity and fire and electrical safety.

As of April 2014, BUET had inspected 200 factories for electrical and fire safety and structural integrity, with inspection of the remaining factories due to be completed by the end of the year. All inspections are carried out using a uniform set of minimum inspection standards.

Heather Cruden, High Commissioner of Canada, said that “Canada is committed to supporting the Government of Bangladesh’s efforts to improve working conditions in the ready-made garment sector, in line with international labour standards. This large and growing sector is critical to Bangladesh’s economy and responsible for significant increases in women’s employment and economic empowerment in the country. Improving Bangladesh’s ready-made garment sector requires a collective effort by all stakeholders and coordination is essential. We believe that Canada’s support to this ILO project will contribute to ensure that Bangladesh will be better equipped to provide safe and healthy employment for its people.”

“The Netherlands strongly believes that the Government of Bangladesh, employers’ associations, trade unions, brands and the international community must continue to work together towards the realization of the transformation of the RMG sector. The Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation has shown her personal commitment to this cause and supports Bangladesh through ILO in its efforts to ensure safe working conditions. Rana Plaza, never again,” said Gerben S. de Jong, Ambassador of Kingdom of the Netherlands

The British High Commissioner, Robert W Gibson, said that “everyone has a role to play in making this a safe industry, and one that will have a positive impact on social change and on women's empowerment. Let us use this anniversary to maintain momentum and push for further progress. We must ensure that the commitments made translate into real changes. The UK will continue to support efforts that will help the garment industry in Bangladesh be more than a source of revenue but a source of pride.”

Rehabilitation programmes for the survivors of the Rana Plaza Collapse are under way, and skills development and re-employment support has been provided to an initial 50 injured survivors. A further 250 survivors are receiving similar support.

“The EU remains ready to assist Bangladesh's on-going reform of the RMG sector, so that Bangladesh can continue to benefit from preferential access to the EU market,” said Ambassador William Hanna, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh.

“Rana Plaza continues to be a clarion call for deep, fundamental change in Bangladesh’s apparel sector. In response to that call for change, so many things have happened over the past year to launch this transformation and put Bangladesh on track to achieve a strong, dynamic, profitable garment industry, one where workers are fairly compensated, fairly treated, and have a voice in their working conditions to ensure their safety and security,” said Dan W. Mozena, Ambassador of the United States of America to Bangladesh.

Since 2013, over 140 RMG factory unions have registered in Bangladesh, compared to only two in the previous three years.

Tapan Chowdhury, President of the Bangladesh Employers’ Federation, said: “We have seen important results in terms of factory inspections, labour law amendments and rehabilitation programmes and we are committed to completing those actions set out in the NTPA.”

Zafrul Hasan, President of the NCCWE, said: “While progress is being made, we need to see that working conditions are further improved and rights upheld. At the same time, we expect that all survivors and victims’ families receive their appropriate compensation in a timely manner.”

The commemoration event titled “One Year after Rana Plaza: Progress And Way Forward” was jointly organized by the Government of Bangladesh and the ILO, with support from Canada, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

For more information, please contact:
Abdullah Al Muyid, email: mob: +88 01713 068384