The government yesterday formed a separate welfare fund for export-oriented workers to face any emergency situation and provide them with insurance coverage.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed made the announcement after a meeting with owners of different industrial sectors at the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment in Dhaka.
Every exporter will contribute 0.03 percent of his or her total yearly export earning to the fund which in the first year should cross Tk 72 crore, the minister said.
“Every year the fund will increase in line with the rise in our export earning,” the minister said, adding that this fund can provide workers with insurance coverage in the case of any industrial disaster such as the Rana Plaza building collapse.
“Money from this fund will be used during any crisis moment in the industrial sector. Rana Plaza building collapse was a wake-up call for us. So we have formed this fund as a safety measure against such disasters,” the minister also said.
About how the fund will be used, Mikail Shipar, secretary to the ministry of labour and employment, said this fund is only for the workers of the export-oriented industrial sectors as the government has a separate fund for other informal sectors.
“We run a separate welfare fund of Tk 100 crore for the workers of the informal sectors like construction, poultry and other sectors. So, they will not be entitled to this fund,” Shipar told The Daily Star after the meeting.
Bangladesh Employers' Federation will run the fund with the formation of a board in which government officials will also be included, he said.
Shipar said the fund has been formed mainly keeping in mind emergency situations such as the one at Tuba Group.
Last year the workers of the Tuba Group, a local garment group, did not receive salaries and festival bonuses before the Eid-ul-Fitr as the owner of the factory Delwar Hossain was in jail in a case over one of the worst industrial disasters at Tazreen Fashions, which had killed 112 workers in November 2012.
Workers of Tuba Group staged a demonstration in front of the factory in the city's Badda area during the Eid vacation as they could not visit their village home for Eid celebrations without money.
Later, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers' and Exporters' Association (BGMEA), the garment makers' platform, paid a portion of the workers' salaries and bonuses with contribution from other big exporters.
“So we will address such emergency incidents with the money from this fund, but the owners will have to prove to the board that they are not capable of paying the workers in the case of an emergency situation,” Shipar said.