The Transparency International Bangladesh yesterday demanded that the government set up a special tribunal to try the people responsible for the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse.
The lengthy judicial process associated with the case is a bar to trying the people responsible for the deadliest garment sector incident, the TIB said in its fourth fact-finding research on the collapse.
“In some cases, political unwillingness in bringing the people responsible under trial was noticed,” said Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of the TIB, at a press conference on “good governance in RMG sector: progress review” at its Dhaka office.
Exporters, importers, and producers did not properly bear their responsibility of strengthening workplace safety, he said.
Lawlessness, or in other words, delays in delivering justice in fact inspired bad governance in the garment sector, said Iftekharuzzaman.
The trial has remained stalled at the High Court in the last two years as the investigating agencies are saying that they can't find witnesses, said Sultana Kamal, chairperson of the TIB.
It was not a killing in secret; rather, it happened in front of thousands of people and so it was very clear who were involved, she said.
However, a section of people halted the case proceedings in court, Sultana said. “It indicates that still there is a section of people in our country who can influence the judiciary.”
The TIB said 102 major initiatives were taken in the last five years by factory owners, the government, buyers, and retailers to strengthen the workplace safety and improve workers' rights.
“Here too the progress is not satisfactory,” said Iftekharuzzaman, adding that only 40 initiatives were fully implemented, 42 are still under process and 20 have been closed down.
He said a majority of the initiatives which have been implemented mainly focused on expanding the business of factory owners, generating profits and increasing productivity. But the initiatives that could have improved labour rights have not been fully implemented to date, he added.
“So, the workers are not benefitting from the steps taken after the Rana Plaza collapse,” said Iftekharuzzaman.
He said 632 trade unions exist in the garment sector, meaning only 3 percent of the total number of factories is covered.
However, the labour law was amended after the collapse to allow workers the complete freedom of association, he said.
Moreover, the existing trade unions are controlled by a section of influential leaders deployed by factory owners. As a result, workers can't enjoy the benefits of the labour law reforms, according to Iftekharuzzaman.
Here, all participants such as the government, manufacturers, retailers, brands, the Accord and the Alliance have been negligent in implementing the steps taken for the benefit of workers, he said.
Iftekharuzzaman also talked about the government's ongoing inspection of small factories not affiliated with the Accord and the Alliance.
He said inspection and remediation standards for workplace safety should be the same for every factory.
The anti-graft activist said the surviving Rana Plaza victims and relatives of the deceased have not received compensation yet, as the money that has so far been provided to them was financial assistance.
Compensation and financial assistance is not the same thing, he said.
The TIB said the monthly minimum salary for a garment worker should be $202 from $68 now.