Six months ago, the Bangladesh garment sector experienced a tragedy that would go down in history. More than 1,100 workers were killed in the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory. This incident closely followed the Tazreen fire which occurred at the end of 2012, killing 112 people. Since these incidents companies, governments, trade unions and several initiatives have risen and engaged towards tackling improvements in fire and construction safety in Bangladesh.
With 10 years experience in improving working conditions in the supply chain and notably in Bangladesh as one of our participants' major sourcing countries, BSCI knows that sustainable progress at workplace takes time and requests the involvement of all parties – government, business, trade unions and NGOs – as all bear a shared responsibility. In this context BSCI welcomes the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which has been signed by 101 companies, 40% of which are BSCI participating companies. This company-program focuses on establishing credible infrastructure safety inspections and remediation processes for the producers of companies that have signed the Accord. BSCI believes that the Accord and its implementation plan are a comprehensive set of measures which are complementary to the activities within the BSCI framework focusing on working conditions in the factories. In terms of actions from the Bangladesh Government, a new labour law was adopted on 13 June 2013. BSCI welcomes this movement which aims to ensure worker’s rights are strengthened. BSCI hopes it proves to be the first step towards fulfilling the Government’s obligation to respect fully the fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. BSCI urges the Government to see that an appropriate and effective regulatory framework is developed and implemented as early as possible. Earlier this week, on 22 October 2013, the International Labor Organization (ILO) announced a new program set up together with the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) aimed at improving working conditions in the ready-made garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh.
The US$24.21 million three-and-a-half year initiative focuses on minimising the threat of fire and building collapse in the RMG industry and on ensuring the rights and safety of workers. BSCI welcomes this program as it will help to cover factories which infrastructure will not have been checked via the implementation of the Accord. BSCI welcomes that these different initiatives work in synergies rather than in isolation as it will prove to be more efficient and provide quicker results. The tragedies in Bangladesh have also initiated BSCI to take an added focus on its own system and adopt new measures for detecting and preventing fires at producers’ workplaces.
BSCI has elaborated its training on fire safety issues in Bangladesh and also added more training for buyers to raise awareness at the retailers. The BSCI auditing methodology has also been adapted, for instance some questions around fire safety issues in factories are automatically rendered ‘non compliant’, furthermore, auditing materials and tools have been upgraded. BSCI is also continuously engaged in dialogue on the issue both in Europe and with Government and local stakeholders in Bangladesh. Changes will take time but we remain committed to work in partnerships to find a solution which prevents such tragedies from happening again.