RMG workers' safety

Govt action plan makes progress

25 April 2014 Kazi Zahidul Hasan

The government has made significant progress in implementing the National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity in the RMG sector, which was adopted after the Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza disaster.
A high-powered Cabinet Committee on RMG industry comprising 11 relevant and senior Ministers together with some government bodies are working hard to implement the plan incorporating all aspects of occupational safety and workers' rights in the sector, said some concerned officials.
"There has been significant progress in line with the action plan that include legal, policy and institutional reform for the RMG sector following the tragic incident of Rana Plaza," Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar told The New Nation yesterday.
The government has already amended labour law, increased wages, appointed factory inspectors after the Rana Plaza incident to ensure safety and improve working environment, he said.
In line with the demand from the key apparel importing countries, the government has formed a high-powered committee headed by Senior Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office for bringing EPZ Act in conformity with Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 and its amendments and also launched publicly accessible database on RMG factories.
Meanwhile, the department of factories and establishment has been upgraded into Directorate of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) with more authority and manpower, labour secretary said.
"We have already recruited 67 factory inspectors for DIFE and more 123 factory inspectors would be recruited soon to comply with the requirement of the Action Plan," he said.   
Regarding the assessment of fire, electrical and structural safety of all active garment factories, he said, the government has developed a common operating manual for assessing building, fire and electrical safety of RMG factories for factory assessment by the Alliance, Accord and National Teams.
"Safety assessment of RMG factories is going on in full swing and we hope the task will  complete by the end of this year," he said..  
The Review Panel which has been formed to take the final decision on most vulnerable factories, has already shut down 13 factories taking into consideration of  worker's safety.  
Responding to a question, he said, the owners of Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza are facing judicial trial for their failure to   ensure safety to their workers.
Thirty national teams of engineers from Bangladesh University of Engineering technology (BUET), inspection teams of Alliance and Accord are inspecting all active export-oriented garment factories.
These inspection teams have already completed building safety assessment of 1128 garment units. Of the total teams BUET and Alliance have completed assessment of 247 and 431 factories respectively and Accord teams completed fire and electrical safety assessment of 250 factories and building safety assessment of 200 factories.  
A total of 140 trade unions in RMG sector have been registered since January, 2013 so far.
"We have started interactions with envoys of different countries including  that of USA, EU, the Netherlands and Canada. The purpose of the interactions is to keep them informed of different government steps in implementing the plan, " another government official said.  
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Atiqul Islam said, since the Rana Plaza disaster, the BGMEA and factory owners have taken different steps to ensure workers safety and security and increase wages. The buyers, he said, however, did not increase prices of products.
BGMEA has been working hard to make the industry sustainable and to avert any further factory disaster by ensuring safe work place for the workers, he said while asking for cooperation of the buyers in this regard.
BGMEA, he said, has spent Tk 14.50 crore for the treatment of workers, rescue operations and to pay wages. It also contributed Tk 2 crore to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.

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