Give insurance coverage to all factory workers: ILO country director

Srinivas B Reddy

Bangladesh should launch the National Employment Injury Insurance Programme to bring all factory workers under insurance coverage, said Srinivas B Reddy, country director for International Labour Organisation.

At present, only 25 workers of each factory enjoy insurance benefits -- and they are chosen randomly. But under the proposed programme, all workers will be included.

The insurance, which will be mandatory for all factories, will cover health, unfortunate death and other workplace accidents, and factory owners will need to pay less than Tk 60 as premium for each worker every month.

“We have to learn from the faults of the Rana Plaza. We have to integrate the workers with the national system. We have to look to the future,” he told The Daily Star in an interview.

Of the 1,138 workers that died in the Rana Plaza collapse two years ago, the families of only 100 of them received insurance benefit worth Tk 1 lakh each. 

The ILO country director also touched upon the issues of compensation disbursement to the victims, imparting financial know-how to them to ensure best use of the money, workplace safety and so on.

He said every victim of the Rana Plaza has already received 70 percent of their compensation amount and the remaining payment will be disbursed to them soon. 

So far, a total of Tk 126 crore, or $16.4 million, has been disbursed to 4,969 victims or their families as compensation over the last two years. 

A total of $24 million has been deposited in the Rana Plaza Trust Fund, but the fund is still short of $6 million. 

Initially, the trust fund aimed to collect $40 million, but the target was later brought down to $30 million after reluctance from many international retailers and donors to follow through on their commitments. 

He said the ILO has been offering training to the surviving victims and dependants of the deceased on how to make the best use of 
their money. 

Officials of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) have already imparted trainings to some batches of compensation beneficiaries over the last one year.

Regarding the progress of workplace safety in the garment sector, he said the country has improved a lot in that area since the ill-fated event on April 24, 2013, as the government and private sector entrepreneurs have taken a lot of positive initiatives.

Reddy went on to recommend the government to strengthen the capacities of RAJUK, the newly-formed Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishments and the Department of Fire Service and Civil Defence such that they can continue with their safety improvement activities in factories. 

He also suggested for building long-term partnerships with the trade unions for sustainability of the garment business in the country. 
“Allowing 305 trade unions in the factories within one and a half years is a good sign of practising trade unionism in the country.”

“Now, Bangladesh needs to launch social dialogues involving trade union leaders, retailers, government officials, rights groups and owners to avoid any misunderstanding in the sector.”

Reddy said the country has a very bright future in garment business as it has successfully navigated the troubled waters after the Rana Plaza collapse. 

“I am very optimistic that Bangladesh's garment sector will continue to grow, as very positive trends are already being seen in the form of higher export volumes despite odds like Rana Plaza.”


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