Experts believe that the responsibility towards ensuring workplace security and safety of workers in export-oriented ready-made garment industries, as well as in other sectors, are grossly neglected in the country.
Citing the recent Shezan Juice factory fire incident in Narayanganj, they made the remark at a virtual dialogue “Industrial Safety of the RMG Sector during the Post-Accord-Alliance Period” organised jointly by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and FES.
Member of CPD Board of Trustees and former advisor to a caretaker government Syed Manzur Elahi presided over the meeting where the development partners and the representatives of the ILO, besides garment industry representatives, shared their views on the current state of workers’ safety in the labour sector and how to overcome challenges there.
According to a report presented at the discussion by CPD Research Director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, “About 22.5% of the four thousand garment factories have still not been inspected.”
It claimed that the work of Accord and Alliance in the garment sector had improved labour security in the sector after the Rana Plaza accident in 2013. However, at the same time, the National Initiative and Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC), formed by the government, did not make the expected progress.
Dr Khondaker pointed out some weaknesses of the RMG Sustainable Council (RSC) formed after the Accord completed its task.
He highlighted the accidents in the garment sector in three years prior to 2018, contrasted to the period after 2018 and said that accidents in the garment sector are happening again. The number of injured in the accidents is increasing. Although the number of fires has been high in the past, recent accidents have also involved electrical and infrastructural issues of factory buildings.
Meanwhile, he questioned the extent to which the agencies responsible for decreasing accidents were fulfilling their responsibilities and strengthening the coordination of stakeholders in the whole process.
In this regard, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment (DIFE) under the Ministry of Labour and Employment has the main responsibility.
Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD, said, “The Accord and Alliance initiatives have made great strides in the garment sector. But a number of recent industrial accidents have raised the question of whether we can sustain the progress achieved through Accord and Alliance.”
DIFE Inspector General Md Nasir Uddin Ahmed said, “More than four and a half lakh establishments remain unregistered while 90 lakh factories, shops and establishments are registered.” He pointed to the shortage of manpower in the institutions for proper inspection.
Syed Manzur Elahi said, “The idea of ensuring security is important in the case of the garment sector as there is a certain pressure from buyers but it doesn’t mean that without external pressure security and compliance can be ignored.”
He, therefore, urged for special attention to be paid to the safety of other export-oriented and local industries.