Govt hears worries of RMG buyers tomorrow
In the wake of concern from international buyers over labour rights in Bangladesh, the labour and employment ministry have scheduled a meeting with them tomorrow to hear out their issues.
Nineteen international garment buyers met at Walmart's Gulshan office last week to draft a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina voicing their uneasiness over a number of issues.
At the forefront is the persistent labour unrest in the sector.
The murder of Aminul Islam, a local leader of Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity, who disappeared only to be found dead on the sidelines of Tangail-Mymensingh highway earlier in April, was another concern.
To date, eleven rights groups from US wrote to Sheikh Hasina on April 18 demanding a swift, comprehensive and impartial investigation into Islam's death.
The Bangladesh embassy in the US, and as recently as few days ago different rights groups from the US, wrote to the commerce ministry seeking information on Islam's death.
But the commerce ministry is yet to receive a reply to letter sent in April to the home ministry regarding the murder, Additional Commerce Secretary Monoj Kumar Roy said.
Moreover, the grim picture painted by the US Congress in a hearing on Thursday on Bangladesh's human and labour rights situation, added to their worries.
In the hearing Eric R Biel, acting assistant deputy undersecretary to the Department of Labour's Bureau of International Labour Affairs, raised the issue of Islam's murder again.
In recent months, the US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan W Mozena, too, has been expressing concern over the human and labour rights situation in the country.
“We did not receive any letter from the buyers yet, but many people are bringing up the subject of rights violation, so we wanted to address the issue,” said Mikail Shipar, the ministry's secretary, citing no orders were cancelled yet on said grounds.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), too, did not receive any letter from buyers yet concerning Islam's murder and any rights violation, said Siddiqur Rahman, acting president of the platform.
“From the very beginning we wanted a fair and impartial probe into the death of Aminul Islam. We do not want any unnatural death,” Rahman said, echoing Shipar's words regarding order cancellation.
Bangladeshi garment factories have considerably improved workers' remuneration and benefits over the years, Rahman said, adding that the presence of globally renowned clothing brands only validates it.
The labour and employment ministry, however, is open to suggestions from the buyers to further improve upon the labour rights situation, Shipar said.
“If necessary we will also sit with the garment owners and trade union leaders for discussions to improve the situation.”
The garment manufacturers in Bangladesh urged the government to step up diplomatic relationship with the US as the country is the single largest export destination for Bangladeshi garment items.
In fiscal 2010-11, Bangladesh exported goods worth $5.10 billion to the US, of which 90 percent comprised of garment items, while imports from the USA stood at $676 million.
A total of 97 percent Bangladeshi goods enter the US market without any duty, but garments, the country's main export item, has been left out.