• Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Worker database seems far off

Refayet Ullah Mirdha

The absence of a central database of workers and factories has left many outstanding issues unresolved in the garment sector.

Names, addresses, age and dates of birth of many workers remained unknown, creating obstacles in resolving issues such as compensations for accidental deaths.

Factory owners sometimes publish incorrect info, making it tougher to verify the identification of the victims in case of an accident.

Take the latest spell of labour unrest at Tuba Group for an instance: the number of workers could not be initially confirmed. The number varied between 1,600 and 1,400.

 

Some garment makers say the total number of garment workers in the country is 4.4 millio, while others say it is 3.5 million.

The same confusion is there on the number of factories, which could either be 5,500 or 4,000, according to industry insiders.

The complexities in payment of compensations to the victims of Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza collapse are other examples of the problems created in the absence of the database.

The authorities of the two factories had to deal with several claimants who demanded the compensations issued for a single dead worker.

As there was no database, many workers of Tazreen and Rana Plaza could not be properly identified and were later buried in mass graves.

Doctors are still struggling to verify their identities with DNA profiling.

The government has no plan to prepare a huge database now, said Mikail Shipar, labour and employment secretary.

“We have already prepared a database only of factories. But we do not know the exact number of factories, as the database still requires some additional information.”

“But we repeatedly asked the BGMEA and BKMEA to prepare the central database of workers, so that we can also take benefit of it,” Shipar told The Daily Star.

It is the responsibility of the garment makers to prepare such a database for their own interest, he said.

The $24.21 million project to be implemented by the International Labour Organisation after the Rana Plaza collapse will only inspect the garment factories to ensure safe workplace. “It will not work for the database.”

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) took an initiative to prepare a central database of workers in May 2013 after the twin industrial disasters.

Efforts to prepare a complete database are underway, said Atiqul Islam, president of BGMEA.

The database has only included 212 factories in Ashulia and Gazipur, which will be completed with the inclusion of all the factories.

“We need the database for our own convenience,” Islam said.

“I agree it is necessary for the benefits of all parties, but it is not in our plan right now to prepare such a huge database,” said Srinivasa Reddy, country director of ILO.

Published: 12:00 am Monday, August 18, 2014

Last modified: 10:38 pm Sunday, August 17, 2014

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