Mixed results from Rana Plaza steps: TIB

Only 12 out of the 80 ongoing initiatives to improve governance in the garment sector were completed in fiscal 2014-15, according to Transparency International Bangladesh.

The country office of the global civil society movement against corruption said the implementation of 48 initiatives identified to fix the problems in the garment sector is underway, but 12 of them are moving slowly. Another 20 projects have remained stagnant. 

TIB said there has been progress in case of capacity building of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) and the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence and the decentralisation of Rajuk and the DIFE in the last one year. Steps were also taken to ensure factory safety.

But labour rights and the security during the job period have been evaded, it said in a report yesterday.

The report from TIB comes just three days before the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse that killed more than 1,135 and injured thousands.

Conducted between April last year and March this year, the report is the second follow-up to the TIB research, “Readymade garment: Problems to Good Governance and Way Forward”. 

The findings of the research were disclosed at a media briefing at the TIB office in the capital.

Although 95 percent of the garment factories are implementing the minimum wage, there are allegations that they are not repaying the salaries by the seventh day of a month, according to the report.

Furthermore, there is an unwillingness to provide other facilities such as leave, maternity leave and attendance salaries.

There is also a lack of political will in creating an environment that would ensure labour rights and collective bargaining, said the TIB. 

The production target has gone up by 60 percent, meaning the workers have been put under immense pressure to meet those numbers, TIB said, adding that only 16 percent of the factories are providing living wage to their workers.

The report lauded the hiring of 235 factory inspectors in line with the Sustainability Compact.

Five new offices of the factory inspection have been set up in garment belts and adequate workforce has been ensured. However, they were not given the logistic support, said TIB.

It said 114 new trade unions were given licence but there are allegations that Tk 5,000 to Tk 10,000 were realised to provide the licence.

A hotline was supposed to be set up at the labour directorate but it is yet to see the light of the day because of a lack of political will, said TIB.

A time-befitting fire service guideline was formulated in September last year, but it was later cancelled because of the influence from Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, which argued that the implementation of the guideline is costly and impractical.

TIB said although the number of warehouse inspections has gone up, the quality of the inspections has not been enhanced.

The commerce ministry is formulating a guideline to run subcontracting but there has not been any timeline for its submission.

The report said two committees were formed to sort out the disagreement between Rajuk and the local government bodies in approving building designs, but the committees are not able to play an effective role due to political interference.

Rajuk has introduced electronic system to accept online application for design approval. Still, the process is not graft-free, it said.

The city development authority has also failed to take any steps in appointing experts for scrutinising building designs.

The report said factory owners are also not sending workers' attendance sheets and salary registers to BGMEA regularly.

More than 17,000 garment workers were rendered jobless after 32 factories were permanently closed and 21 factories temporarily closed following inspections from the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).

But steps were not taken to re-employ them, according to the report.

BGMEA is also sidestepping its duty to develop a database for garment workers on the excuse of lack of funds, said the TIB report.

It also said BGMEA has continued to realise additional incentives from the government using various excuses and political influence.

Since the collapse of Rana Plaza, the Alliance, the Accord and BUET have inspected respectively 584, 1,103 and 647 factories.

But the buyers are not participating in the post-inspection reform activities, which is a threat to the whole initiative, said the report, adding that the buyers' groups are also bypassing their commitments to help subcontractors.

TIB said most of the buyers had agreed to increase prices of the products they source from Bangladesh in order to contribute to improving working environment in the factories and ensuring labour rights.

The increase in the cost is too low. Besides, 30 percent of the work orders were cancelled in the last one year, in response to the rise in product price.

The anti-corruption body said there has been no list of those who have been compensated. There were also allegations of lack of transparency in fixing the compensation amount and procrastination in disbursing the sum.

It said 14 retailers, such as Lee Cooper, JCPenny, Matalan and Carrefour that were linked the Rana Plaza did not contribute any money to the Rana Plaza Donors' Trust Fund.

On the legal side, the Criminal Investigation Department has not submitted two probe reports linked to two cases on Rana Plaza.

TIB recommended formation of a separate ministry for ensuring governance in the garment sector as well as a public sector board for ensuring timely completion of various initiatives.

A fund has to be formed to ensure compliance at subcontracting factories and small factories, it said.

A workers' welfare fund has to be formed with 1 to 1.5 cents from the selling price of per piece of garment. The ratio of buyers and factory owners might be 75:25.

TIB also called for setting up of tribunals to ensure speedy trials of the cases linked to the Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen Fire.

Speaking at the briefing, TIB Chairperson Sultana Kamal said the accused in the incidents such as Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fire are not facing accountability, due to which these types of incidents are taking place again and again.

TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said although the minimum wage has increased after the Rana Plaza collapse, the rise was not in line with the living standards.

He also pointed out that while laws were passed after the twin incidents to address the problems, they are already being abused to commit irregularities and corruption.  


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