The physical condition of 12 percent survivors of the Rana Plaza building collapse has still been worsening although five years have almost passed since the worst industrial incident.
Of those who could manage to escape death on April 24 in 2013, some 70.5 percent are more or less stable while 17.5 percent have become completely stable following years of treatment, according to a new survey of the ActionAid Bangladesh.
The NGO revealed the survey result at a seminar on “Advancing Decent Work Agenda: Departure from Rana Plaza” at the Brac Centre Inn in Dhaka yesterday.
The survey was carried out on 200 out of 1,400 survivors.
Some 22.5 percent of the survivors said they still live in trauma in comparison to 30.8 percent last year.
Those reporting worsening conditions blamed headaches and hand, leg and back pains as some of the major problems. Some 51.3 percent stated to be engaged in jobs, including self-employment, while 48.7 percent said to have stopped working mainly because of physical and mental weaknesses. Some 21.6 percent have returned to work in the garment sector while as many as finding jobs as day labourers.
“This is a significant change from the last survey when only 2 percent were working as day labourers,” the survey said.
Monthly household income for 4.5 percent of the survivors is Tk 5,000 or less whereas the minimum wage in the garment sector is Tk 5,300.
The income of 60.6 percent of workers ranges between Tk 5,001 and Tk 10,000 and it is more than Tk 10,000 for 34.8 percent, with the major expenditures being in food, house rent, children's education and treatment.
Addressing the event, MM Akash, a professor of economics at the University of Dhaka, said even after the hurried amendment of the labour law, the compensation remains stuck at Tk 1 lakh although a committee of experts had suggested Tk 15 lakh.
“However, the committee report is still pending as the High Court is yet to deliver the verdict on it since the factory owners' representative did not sign it,” he said.
The post-collapse progress in the garment sector was driven by buyers, not factory owners, Akash said.
“The compensation money at Tk 1 lakh is too low for the workers,” said Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, executive director of the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies. He said the expert committee didn't comprise any union leader.
Ahmed said government agencies blame each other following industrial incidents without solving the problem.
He cited the Tampaco Foils fire in 2016, following which boiler inspectors blamed gas suppliers and vice versa, with none wanting to correctly identify the cause.
“The government should reveal the amount of money received under different names after the Rana Plaza collapse in the name of providing compensation to the victims,” said Kamrun Nahar, general secretary of the Bangladesh Progressive Garment Workers' Federation.
Anne-Laure Henry-Greard, officer-in-charge of the International Labour Organisation in Bangladesh, praised the safety progresses made in the garment sector. She suggested avoiding discrimination in trade union registration, establishing congenial industrial relations between owners and workers and being more compliant to maintain trade privilege to the European Union for better garment business.
Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid, moderated the seminar.