The condition of one-fifth the Rana Plaza survivors is getting worse six years after the disaster, revealed a study of ActionAid Bangladesh yesterday.
Almost half of the survivors are more or less stable and around one-third are completely stable. In terms of psychological health, 10.5 percent are still in trauma.
Nuzhat Jabin, manager of ActionAid Bangladesh, presented the survey report at a programme styled “Commemorating the 6th anniversary of Rana Plaza Building Collapse” in the capital's Brac Centre Inn.
The organisation used the database of 1,400 survivors of the industrial disaster on April 24, 2013 that claimed 1,135 lives and followed up with 200 of the survivors over telephone.
The survey found some 51 percent of the survivors of Rana Plaza disaster are still unemployed due to physical and mental challenges.
Of them, 74 percent cited physical weakness and 27 percent mental weakness as the main reasons for their unemployment.
ActionAid said they have found in previous surveys that the nature of unemployment is temporary. They tend to change work frequently as their physical conditions do not allow them to work for long periods at a time.
Factory safety has improved after the incident but the process has been slowed down recently, said Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue.
There was a discussion to form a trust fund like the Rana Plaza one in all factories to be used in case of accidents, but nothing has been done yet.
The call for establishing specialised hospitals for injured labourers has also remained unheard, he added.
Moazzem stressed raising the quality of life and wages of labourers.
The Rana Plaza disaster was a wake-up call for garment manufacturers but not for the buyers.
“Still, the buyers' margin is higher than the suppliers', which has remained almost the same. Buyers don't want to pay more and some of them don't follow the international procurement standards,” Moazzem added.
Razequzzaman Ratan, general secretary of the Socialist Labour Front, echoed the same, saying none of buyers wants to pay more for apparel, so their profit is growing.
“But this is profit by exploitation,” he said, while calling for ethical labour market practices.
The production cost of a T-shirt is about $4 in Bangladesh, whereas its selling price in Europe is about $40, said Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
“So the value chain should be transparent, so that people can understand who are the most gainers and who the losers are.”
On paper, workers' minimum wage has increased, but in reality it has not once inflation is taken into account.
So, buyers should pay more so that the manufacturers can pay their workers more.
The garment makers should intensify their negotiations with buyers, said Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh.
Ration and healthcare for labourers will increase their productivity, so the government and the private sector should work on it too, she added.
The government has the responsibility to ensure workplace safety, said Tuomo Poutiainen, country director of the International Labour Organisation.
“So, the government should increase investment in it along with the private sector.”
There should also be a system that enforces the proceeds from one T-shirt be set aside for insurance for one labourer in a year, so that they can get compensation if any accident happens, Poutiainen also said.
Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan, member of the parliamentary standing committee on the ministry of labour and employment, also spoke at the event.