Bangladesh Garment Industry:
solving the nation's human rights crisis

Comment Stream

2 years ago
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1. "Two Years after World's Worst Garment Factory Disaster, Bangladesh Struggles to Make Things Right." Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/bangladesh-garment-industry-pushes-to-meet-deadlines-on-safety-standards/2015/04/22/b72ca9f0-e87b-11e4-8581-633c536add4b_story.html

In the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, the Alif Embroidery Village is still recovering from one of the most devastating factory disasters in history in the wake of its two year anniversary. On April 23, 2013, Rana Plaza, “an eight story structure, collapsed killing 1,100 and injuring 2,500.” The village itself produces clothing for international brands like H&M, Gap, Nike, and Disney, leaving a dependency on Westernized companies. The Bangladeshi garment industry accounts for 80% of the country’s exports each year and employs over 4.4 million workers.
The problem is severe and the Bangladeshi government is looking for answers. However, should the responsibility be put on the government or the brands themselves? Over the past couple of years, the emergence of government factory inspectors has increased. Pressure on the legislature to pass new labor laws and factory condition laws has had some successes also. Along with inspecting debilitating facilities comes a stark economic cost, around “$1.5 million in repairs and upgrades,” for the Alif complex, with fire doors costing “$2,000 a pair, and hydrant pumps at $60,000 each.” Though inspite of the large cost, heads of the embroidery industry in Bangladesh believe that these costly repairs are an investment and will ultimately provide further incentive for companies to invest.
By March 23 of this year, 2,000 inspected factories were closed down due to them being at risk of endangering factory workers, an unfortunate cost to increased security. With around “80% of the factory workforce as women,” government leaders are afraid that with the closing of garment buildings will put many women out of jobs. The predicament is finding the funding to repair facilities while continuously employing thousands who depend on the Bangladeshi garment industry to survive.

@inorris

2 years ago
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2. "NATLEX - Browse by Country." NATLEX - Browse by Country. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex_browse.details?p_lang=en&p_country=BGD&p_classification=01.02&p_origin=COUNTRY&p_sortby=SORTBY_COUNTRY

After the Alif Embroidery disaster in 2013, the Bangladeshi government was seriously pressured into amending its national Labor Act of 2006. Most amendments--that are shockingly left off of the first act--are in direct response to the garment factory disaster. In particular, the amendments provide for “compensation due to death, emergency exits, access to gangways,” and several other points directly relating to facility safety. A whole new section of the Act was added in providing for “the mandatory use of personal safety equipment,” again, in response to the Alif disaster. Interestingly enough, the amendment also addresses children in the workplace. Oddly, children are considered as workers, and their rights should be established in, “finding proper age,” and what is considered “dangerous work conditions of children.”
In summary, the Bangladeshi government realized their ill-preparation in the wake of a disaster by revamping their policies. Though the “better late than never” principle sheds light on their apt reaction, the previous lack of guidelines is quite alarming. Adding to the already murky relationship between vendors and their industrial sources is the amount of neglect on the latter’s part. However, moving forward, the government’s display of concern speaks to the Bangladeshi economy’s economic reliance on the industry and need to invest in ensuring its continuation.

2 years ago
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3. "Bangladesh: Protect Garment Workers' Rights." Bangladesh: Protect Garment Workers' Rights. Human Rights Watch, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/02/06/bangladesh-protect-garment-workers-rights

For the past several years, Human Rights Watch--an NGO that conducts research into human rights conditions and violations around the world--has monitored the status of humane treatment and workplace environments in Bangladesh garment factories. On February 6, 2014, HRW released an article of research findings into the complexes’ conditions and a platform of suggestions directed towards the Bangladeshi government. Even post 2013 reforms, the nation has a long way to go in creating safe, humane, and equitable facilities for workers. The organization concluded that garment factory owners need to be discouraged from “intimidating and threatening workers from organizing trade unions,” along with “prosecuting those responsible for attacking labor leaders.” HRW interviewed 47 factory workers around the nation’s capital, Dhaka. In the past two years, the new amendments to the Labor Act of 2006 have improved access to unions for workers and have made the establishment of unions much easier. However, workers reveal that factory owners “use local gangsters to threaten or attack [them].” The difficult task is to meet the 30% approval rating of factory workers in order to create a union when work complexes are comprised of thousands.
The best way to safeguard workers’ rights is through the establishment of “independent trade unions.” The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) works with the government to sanction companies that do not follow safe labor laws. However, the industry needs policing on a more local level to protect the lives of everyday workers. Many women live in fear of being sexually harassed and physically abused if caught in the wrong situation, or even, attempting to align with a labor union. Many turn to forming unions in secrecy to avoid losing their jobs.
Factories that supply products for export are required to abide by international retailers’ codes of conduct. Furthermore, after the Rana Plaza disaster, the U.S. “suspended Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP),” along with many EU countries enforcing sanctions if conditions were not met. Following, was a “legally binding safety accord” signed by 125 European retailers. The Bangladeshi government cannot stop with pure legislation. In order to eradicate the issue facing thousands, it must begin with the everyday interactions between factory workers and employees.

2 years ago
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4. Bangladesh: The Cost of Fashion. Al Jazeera English, 2013.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vj9AWjJb4R8

The Al Jazeera video delves into the wide variety of products produced in the Bangladesh garment industry, ranging from high end to low end. Garment workers are the lowest wage earners in the world. Specifically, Bangladeshi workers who earn “$0.24 an hour,” significantly lower than the world’s other garment producing industries like China, Cambodia, and Thailand. Due to the incredibly low cost of labor, Dhaka is predicted to outproduce China, already a manufacturing giant. Because of safety problems, leaders are worried that large corporations will turn to abandoning working with Bangladesh. Nobel laureate and native, Muhammad Yunus believes that the Rana Plaza disaster “is a symbol of our failure as a nation.” Once Bangladesh entered the global economy via their garment industry, it appears that they were unfortunately stifled by the plaza collapse. The very foundation of the nation’s economy is broken.
Four million women, who usually come from rural areas, have been given opportunities to “produce for the global market.” Suddenly, the issues growing under the surface were exposed post disaster. According to Yunus, “it took a disaster to finally realize the staggering issues at hand.” Speaking to the value of a standardized minimum wage, Yunus suggests establishing an international standard for pay that companies, nations, and factory owners must legally abide to. Overall, voluntary change must prevail. Once societal changes take place that promote the enforcement of equitable treatment, then follows a healthy garment industry that rewards all.

2 years ago
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5. "An Analysis of the Bangladesh's National Budget for FY2015." An Analysis of the Bangladesh's National Budget for FY2015. CPDBD, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

http://www.slideshare.net/CPDBD/an-analysis-of-the-bangladeshs-national-budget-for-fy2015

Despite continuous setbacks, the Bangladeshi economy is predicted to grow in the year 2015. Both import/export figures are expected to “increase by 15%,” a huge number in comparison to previous years. GDP growth is expected to accelerate despite garment industry issues, though will depend on reform in order to continue down the path of increasing success. In coordination, the budget deficit will decrease.
This year in particular, there have been significant reductions in import duties. In effort to help local industries and promote growth, the reduction of importing raw materials was implemented. Similarly, export taxes have been reduced to help stimulate the economy and prevent extreme losses from the media coverage on Bangladeshi industry. The yearly budget aims to “increase private investment” in domestic industry, along with reducing taxes related to textiles and garment production. The government is strategically implementing tax changes in order to prolong economic success, at least until human rights violations are sorted out and permanently prevented.