ILO: Take Bangladesh garment sector safety measures global

PTI Geneva | Updated on March 12, 2018

Measures by top Western retailers to improve safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories after a disaster that claimed more than 1,000 lives should be adopted worldwide, a top UN official has said.

“It’s clear we shouldn’t make a double standard,” said Gilbert Houngbo, Deputy Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, yesterday.

“In Bangladesh, yes, but we have to make sure that the other countries, in the region and also in other regions, have it,” the former Prime Minister of Togo told presspersons.

The garment sector was spurred into action by April’s collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex near the Bangladeshi capital Dkaha, which claimed 1,135 lives in one of the world’s worst ever industrial disasters.

The tragedy, coming in the wake of a factory fire in November 2012 that killed 117 people, led to pledges from big-name Western retailers and the Bangladeshi government to improve conditions.

Planned measures include more frequent fire and construction-safety inspections as well as expanded union rights.

Critics who have long pointed to risky conditions in the factories of the developing world note bitterly that it took more than 1,000 deaths in a single tragedy to jolt the sector into action.

“Unfortunately this is always what makes the whole international community, and national communities, move,” Houngbo said as he launched an ILO report on the Bangladeshi economy.

“My only hope is that, at least, for Bangladesh, there will be no repeat,” he added.

Bangladesh’s $22-billion garment industry is the world’s second largest after China’s and exports 80 per cent of its output to Europe and North America, giving their retailers huge clout in its economy.

The sector is a top employer, but its four million workers, most of whom are women, are paid as little as $38 a month.

In the face of growing labour unrest following April’s disaster, Bangladesh has opted to hike the sector’s minimum wage by 76 per cent to $68 beginning in December, only the fourth pay increase since 1985.

Unions complain, however, that skilled employees have been deprived, and further note that some bosses are cutting food and transport allowances to offset the wage hikes.

Published on November 19, 2013

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