Rana Plaza commemoration highlights progress made and challenges ahead in Bangladesh ready-made garment sector

Speakers at a commemoration event to mark the second Rana Plaza anniversary recognised the progress made towards creating a safer ready-made garment (RMG) sector for Bangladesh while stressing the need for further improvements to working conditions and worker rights in the industry.

Press release | Dhaka, Bangladesh | 23 April 2015
Rana Plaza, two years on: where do we stand?
DHAKA – “Continuous efforts have been made by the Government of Bangladesh and its partners over the last two years to transform our apparel industry,” said HE Md. Mujibul Haque MP, State Minister, Ministry of Labour and Employment. “Almost three-quarters of garment factories have now been assessed for structural and fire safety with only a very small number being deemed too unsafe to operate. The capacity of the Labour Inspectorate and Fire Service is much stronger while legislative amendments have led to the establishment of many more unions. These changes will play a crucial role in charting the future course of the industry, turning it into a sustainable sector,” he added.

A minute’s silence was observed at the event in remembrance of the 1,136 who lost their lives in the Rana Plaza collapse on 24 April 2013. Most victims were from RMG factories housed in the building.

Over the last two years the Government of Bangladesh has worked closely with the International Labour Organization and a wide range of partners to improve working conditions in the RMG sector. To date, over 2,500 out of 3,500 export-oriented RMG factories have been inspected for structural, fire and electrical safety. The Labour Inspectorate and Fire Service are carrying out a more effective regulatory oversight role following extensive capacity building. Efforts are underway to enhance Occupational Safety and Health while rehabilitation support has been provided to Rana Plaza survivors.

Looking back over the past two years, Ms Tomoko Nishimoto, International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific recognised the progress but cautioned against any loss of urgency in the efforts being made.

“Significant progress has been made but many challenges remain. Completing the remaining factory inspections is high priority and government must verify factories claiming to be closed as well as deal with those which will not cooperate. Progress in enhancing safety needs to be matched by similar improvements in workers’ rights. Meanwhile, the Rana Plaza compensation process has highlighted the need for an Employment Injury Insurance scheme that benefits workers and the industry alike,” she said.

The event, ‘Rana Plaza Two Years On: Towards a Safer RMG Sector for Bangladesh’ was organised by the Government of Bangladesh and ILO. The event was supported by Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom which are funding ILO activities to enhance working conditions in Bangladesh. ILO also carries out a range of workers’ rights and fire safety initiatives in Bangladesh supported by the US Department of Labor, Norway and Denmark.

The following statements were also made at the event:

H.E. Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, Ambassador, Embassy of the United States in Bangladesh said, “The message today is that those who heard the cries that tragic day are still listening to the voices of Bangladesh. Consumers, student groups, workers, and brands are watching closely to see how the story unfolds. Amazing things are happening in Bangladesh, and more must happen to sustain the progress made and ensure workers have a voice. We call today for stakeholders to re-commit to workers’ rights and safety so that no worker need fear such a tragedy again.”

H.E. Pierre Mayaudon, Ambassador and Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh said, "Two years after the Rana Plaza tragedy, we are still mourning those who lost their lives and we remain mindful of the difficult struggle for those who survived. The EU and all stakeholders under the Sustainability Compact and beyond stay inspired by their sacrifice for continuously promoting better and safer conditions to RMG factory workers in Bangladesh."

HE Benoît-Pierre Laramée High Commissioner of Canada to Bangladesh said, “Canada is committed to supporting the Government of Bangladesh’s efforts to improve working conditions in the ready-made garments sector. Progress is being made to make the sector safer, but more work remains. Remediation of factories post-inspection and occupational health and safety are key actions that will help ensure the safety and prosperity of the sector. Momentum must be maintained with the strong leadership of the Government of Bangladesh and commitment of the industry.”

Ms Martine van Hoogstraten, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bangladesh said, “Today, two years after the horrific Rana Plaza accident, we reflect on what has been accomplished and look at the challenges ahead to transform the Bangladesh garment sector. The accident underlined the need for structural reforms within the public and private sectors, which was successfully initiated under the ILO RMG program. The Netherlands strongly believes that preventing future accidents can only be achieved by continued collaboration between the key stakeholders, particularly in closing the topic on the compensation for the victims, completing the initial factory inspections and creating a strong regulatory framework to support the industrial sector and workers’ rights.”

Also speaking at the event were Mr. Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, Sr. Secretary, Ministry of Commerce; Mr. Mikail Shipar, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment; H. E. Mr. Robert Winnington Gibson CMG, High Commissioner, British High Commission in Bangladesh; Mr. Tapan Chowdhury, President, Bangladesh Employers Federation; Mr. Md Atiqul Islam, President, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association; Mr. A.K.M. Salim Osman, President, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association; Mr. Abdul Mukit Khan, Chairperson, National Coordination Committee for Workers Education; Mr. Sukkur Mahmud, President, Jatiyo Sramik League and Mr. Roy Ramesh Chandra, Secretary General, IndustriALL Bangladesh.

For more information contact please contact:

Steve Needham, needham@ilo.org, mob: +88 01787 680995
Abdullah Al Muyid,
muyid@ilo.org, mob: +88 01713 068384