News / Asia

Bangladesh Government, Western Retailers Take Steps to Improve Garment Factories

Bangladesh Government, Western Retailers Take Steps to Improve Garment Factoriesi
X
July 24, 2013 9:10 PM
Recent moves by the government in Bangladesh and western retail companies are leading to changes in the country’s garment industry. On July 15, the Bangladeshi parliament approved legislation aimed at strengthening employees’ rights and improving workplace safety. Meanwhile, Western retail companies have come up with two separate plans to increase building safety. VOA’s Deborah Block looks at how these efforts will affect the clothing industry in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Government, Western Retailers Take Steps to Improve Garment Factories

Deborah Block
Recent moves by the government in Bangladesh and western retail companies are leading to changes in the country’s garment industry. On July 15, the Bangladeshi parliament approved legislation aimed at strengthening employees’ rights and improving workplace safety.

Meanwhile, Western retail companies have come up with two separate plans to increase building safety. It's part of an effort to drastically improve the clothing industry in Bangladesh.

More than 1,100 workers died last April after the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh. That touched off intense international pressure to improve garment industry conditions, which led Bangladesh to amend its labor law.

Bangladesh’s Ambassador to the United States, Akramul Qader, said the legislation will strengthen the rights of the country's 4 million garment workers - most of them women.

“Allowing them the formation of unions, pension benefits and other benefits for the workers," said Qader.

Kimberly Elliott, an expert in international trade policy for the Center for Global Development, said the law may help avert another building collapse.

“It does take some steps to try to strengthen the building safety code and to make it more difficult to get a permit to add floors, which was a problem in the Rana building collapse,” she said.

But that can only happen if there are enough inspectors, which Qader admits is a problem since there are at least 5,000 factories, and the government does not know where all of them are located.

“We don’t have enough inspectors to go around. We’re taking different steps now to insure that a good number of inspectors are in place, so that they can go and inspect the factories and submit their reports, and the government can take action,” said Qader.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sex and disability and calls for equal pay for equal work. Factories are required to place 5 percent of profits into an employees’ welfare fund, though that does not apply to the export sector, which includes a large part of the work force.

Elliott said another key provision is that workers no longer need approval from factory owners to form unions.

“There’s provisions to try to avoid a problem that has been a big one in the past of the labor ministry sharing the names of union supporters with management who can then fire them or move them to a different factory, and so that has been changed,” said Elliott.

Critics say factory owners may still be able to create obstacles for unions, however, and the government can end strikes.

The law was passed soon after the U.S. said it was suspending Bangladesh’s trade preferences - though that move is considered symbolic since apparel exported from Bangladesh is not eligible for duty free benefits.  

European retailers recently finalized a plan to accept legal responsibility for safety, and are conducting inspections at their factories in Bangladesh. North American retailers recently announced a separate safety accord that does not hold them liable.

But Elliott said that ultimately it will be up to the Bangladeshi government to push through the improvements to avert another garment building disaster.

"I think a big test for the Bangladeshi government is going to be willingness to enforce, and that has not always been so clear in the past. But I think if the will is there, that will make a huge difference,” she said.

Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garment exporter after China. Its textile sector is the largest single money-maker for the country.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid