Over a year has passed since tens of thousands of garment workers took to the streets at the end of December 2018 and January 2019, to protest the Bangladeshi government’s failure to set a decent minimum wage that would meet their basic needs.
On September 11, 2012, a fire ripped through the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan, killing more than 250 workers, who were unable to escape the building because the exit doors were locked and windows barred. A new report released on the 7th anniversary of the fire warns that garment factories in Pakistan remain just as unsafe today as they were then.
By Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Maquila Solidarity Network, and Worker Rights Consortium
As witness signatories to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, we are concerned about the potential negative impact on worker safety, both short-term and long-term, of the recently concluded Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Accord and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the diverging interpretations that have emerged over the last few weeks.
On May 19, 2019, the Appellate Court of the Bangladesh High Court accepted a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reached earlier this month between the Bangladesh Accord Steering Committee and the Bangladesh employers’ association in the ready-made garment sector, BGMEA. The MoU stipulates that the Accord will continue to operate in Bangladesh for a transition period of 281 working days, during which time brands, unions and the BGMEA will establish a new institution called the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), which will take over the Accord’s tasks in 2020.
Today marks the 6th anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,100 garment workers and injured over 2,000 others. One positive outcome of this preventable tragedy was the creation of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which provides for independent factory safety inspections, transparent remediation of factory safety hazards, an anonymous complaints process, and health and safety training for workers.
A just-released report co-authored by the Witness Signatories to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh reveals that the Bangladesh government is “shockingly unready” to take over the role of the Accord. The Witness Signatories include: Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Maquila Solidarity Network and Worker Rights Consortium.
A fire in a Bangladeshi garment factory in Dhaka this week, in which eight people were reportedly injured, confirms that national inspection bodies are not yet ready to take over the work of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
On January 29, 30 and 31, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) will be organizing protests outside Bangladesh embassies in the US and Europe in support of safe factories, living wages and an end to repression against workers mobilizing for decent wages.
A new minimum wage of 8,000 Taka (US$94), which came into effect on December 9, was rejected by workers and their unions asserting that the increase, the first of its kind since 2013, did not cover the rise in prices over the last five years. Bangladeshi unions, including those in the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, have been demanding a monthly minimum wage of 16,000 taka (US$191).