Local and international partners at a discussion here has recognised the ‘amazing progress’ made towards creating a safer ready-made garment (RMG) sector and stressed maintaining the ‘momentum’ for further improvement in working conditions and worker rights in the industry. Addressing a commemoration event organised marking the second Rana Plaza anniversary, identified the remaining tasks as ‘opportunities’ not challenges and reaffirmed their commitment so that RMG workers enjoy the rights and safety that they deserve on Thursday.
State Minister for Labour and Employment M Mujibul Haque, International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Tomoko Nishimoto, Commerce Secretary Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, Ambassador and Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh Pierre Mayaudon, British High Commissioner Robert W Gibson, Canadian High Commissioner Benoît-Pierre Laramée, Chargé d’Affaires of Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Martine van Hoogstraten and BGMEA President M Atiqul Islam, among others, spoke on the occasion.
A one-minute 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. “Continuous efforts have been made by the government of Bangladesh and its partners over the last two years to transform our apparel industry,” said Mujibul Haque.
He claimed 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. Speaking at the function, the US envoy said, “Amazing things are happening in Bangladesh, and we hope this progress will continue.” The message today is that those of who heard the cries from Rana Plaza on that tragic day two years ago are still listening.
“Consumers, student groups, workers, as well as brands and buyers are watching closely. Today, let us re-commit to ensuring that readymade garment workers enjoy the rights and safety that they deserve,” she said. Looking back over the past two years, Tomoko Nishimoto recognised the progress but cautioned against any loss of urgency in the efforts being made. “A 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, she said. Pierre Mayaudon said two years after the Rana Plaza tragedy, all are still mourning those who lost their lives and 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 said.
Pierre Laramée said Canada is committed to supporting the government of Bangladesh’s efforts to improve working conditions in the readymade garments sector. “Progress is being made to make the sector safer, but more work remains.” He said remediation of factories post-inspection and occupational health and safety are key actions that will help ensure the safety and prosperity of the sector. “The momentum must be maintained with the strong leadership of the government of Bangladesh and commitment of the industry.”
Robert Gibson said all should work together in the coming days to avoid repletion of such tragedy in Bangladesh. He said the UK will continue to support towards safer working environment and empowering women. Martine van Hoogstraten said today, two years after the horrific Rana Plaza accident, they reflect on what has been accomplished and look at the challenges ahead to transform the Bangladesh garment sector.
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, she said.
President, Bangladesh Employers Federation Tapan Chowdhury, Chairperson, National Coordination Committee for Workers Education, Abdul Mukit Khan, President, Jatiyo Sramik League; Sukkur Mahmud, and Secretary General, IndustriALL Bangladesh Roy Ramesh Chandra also spoke at the event. They highlighted the progress made and challenges ahead in Bangladesh readymade garment sector.
The event, ‘Rana Plaza Two Years On: Towards a Safer RMG Sector for Bangladesh’ was organised by the Government of Bangladesh and ILO. It was supported by Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom which are funding ILO activities to enhance working conditions in Bangladesh 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.