After Rana Plaza, experts find RMG compliance better

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 24 Apr 2016, 00:13:58 | Updated : 24 Apr 2016, 10:47:37

After Rana Plaza, experts find RMG compliance better

FE Report

The local apparel sector was moving towards better safety compliance, said experts on Saturday just on the eve of the third anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy that killed nearly 1,334 workers in 2013.

After the deadly Rana Plaza tragedy, the readymade garment (RMG) sector has gradually been evolving from 'poor compliance' to one of 'efforts towards better compliance' in the country, thanks to a significant number of initiatives and activities now in the process of implementation, speakers said on Saturday at a national dialogue.

The local think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) organised the programme on 'Post-Rana Plaza Monitoring: A Civil Society Initiative" held at Brac Center Inn in the city to review the progress and obstacles in the post-Rana Plaza era in Bangladesh.

The discussants at the programme found that the progress after the Rana Plaza incident is praiseworthy in view of rehabilitation of the victims' families and injured people and survivors.

But, there are still many things which need to be done, they said.

Prof Rehman Sobhan said at the dialogue the global market dynamics' had played their part in tragic incidents like Rana Plaza collapse.

Prof Sobhan while chairing the programme, said the central element of the issue, raised by the country's stakeholders, researchers and common people is that tragedies like Rana Plaza collapse never recur.  

He identified three key factors behind such tragedies which include weakness in the governmental process.

To elaborate, he said the concerned government agencies totally fail to save thousands of lives, as they remain silent when people enter a vulnerable building.

There is also a problem that the people who will exercise oversight are also under-compensated which is creating more obstacles.

The second issue he raised is the mindset of the industry towards workers as they (workers) are considered the least important in the process of running factory.

"The workers should be given institutional recognition that they are people who actually add value to the industry and who are central to the global competitiveness," he said.

"Thirdly and finally, the global market dynamics, actually at the end of the day, created the problem of Rana Plaza," he said.

Explaining, the celebrated development economist said:  "Global market dynamics demand that garment exporters should constantly keep their cost down.

"And garment exporters should, therefore, carry the entire burden of cost adjustment in a very small margin within which they operate," he said.  

"How far it is acceptable that a product, which is sold at US$5 by Bangladeshi exporters would be sold at $25 by WallMart in the process of globalisation", he questioned.

CPD additional research director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem presented his key-note paper on 'Re-emerging from the Rana Plaza Tragedy: An Account on the Third Anniversary,' at the programme.

He showed that the country's garment sector had made a notable progress in last three years but more needed to be done to reach the ultimate goal.

Mr Moazzem said although Rana Plaza was a symbol of poor compliance, efforts of private sector and government, international agencies and other stakeholders have made it a symbol of better compliance in the world.

The key-note was a summary of the ongoing study jointly being conducted by CPD and International Labour Organisation (ILO) on "Post-Rana Plaza Developments in Bangladesh: Towards Building a Responsible Supply Chain in the Apparel Sector".

Nearly 1,334 workers died, more than 2,500 were injured while 55 were still remaining missing in the Rana Plaza incident.

The paper showed that 78.8 per cent of survivors interviewed (2016) mentioned about a stable physical condition which was 70.6 per cent in 2015.

But 14.6 per cent reported deteriorating health condition including headache, pain in the body and difficulty in movement.

Dr Wazedul Islam,  Sukur Mahmud, Babul Akhter, Sirazul Islam, Shamima Nasrin, Salma Akhter, and Nasrin Ahmed among other workers and rights activists focussed on compensations and legal procedures.

However, a debate was raised in the dialogue over the activities of Accord and Alliance, the two platforms of the EU and North America, now working in Bangladesh to make better compliance according to demands of the buyers.

Former director of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Ashraf Zaman Dipu said inspectors, even from the Accord and Alliance, have been influencing factories to hire consultants or to buy safety measures at their choice.

He said this is very unfair and the Accord and Alliance should leave Bangladesh within 2018.

Senior vice president of the BGMEA Faruqe Hassan however, supported continuation of Accord and Alliance until achieving a better working environment in garment sector.

Responding to Mr Dipu, Rob Wayss, Executive Director of Bangladesh Operations of Accord on Fire and Building Safety said they are just working to make a better compliance and it is also a wish of the buyers.

US Ambassador to Dhaka Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat said: "We, as your partner, will remain. We are not (US buyers) going to another places".

Prof Rehman Sobhan chaired the programme while Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya moderated.

Ministry of Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar spoke as chief guest while Country Director, ILO Country Office Srinivas B Reddy as the guest of honour.

Lawmaker Israfil Alam also spoke on the occasion.

At another programme on the day, US Ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat said the United States (US) will continue their strong support for the development of Bangladeshi ready-made garment workers.

"You have our support and strong commitment to continue this effort (protect Bangladeshi factory workers)," she said while speaking as the guest of honour at a programme.

BRAC organised the programme titled 'Commemorating Savar tragedy: right to right compensation and appropriate livelihood reintegration' at a city convention centre.

The US envoy laid emphasis on the RMG workers' awareness and powerful voice to speak before the authority regarding the faults in building and suggested each country should work to find their own way-out to the mishaps like Rana Plaza.

Later, she launched a publication titled 'Rubbles to Life'.

Executive Commissioner of Rana Plaza Claims Administration Mojtaba Kazai, ILO's programme manager of RMG project Tuomo Poutiainen, Assistant Director of BILLS Syed Sultan Uddin Ahammed and Executive Director of Caritas Bangladesh Benedict Alo D'Rozario took part in a panel discussion.

In his speech, Mojtaba Kazai stressed the need for introducing a permanent national payment system to compensate the victims of industrial accidents like Rana Plaza collapse.

The nine-storey Rana Plaza building that housed several garment factories collapsed on April 24 in 2013, leaving 1,136 people dead and 2,500 others injured.
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