Friday, 9 June, 2023

10 years after Rana Plaza

Decent wage remains far cry

Decent wage remains far cry

Yesterday marked 10 years since the deadliest garment factory disaster in world history. The eight-storey factory building which collapsed due to a series of glaring structural flaws claimed more than 1,100 people, mostly women. Over 2,500 others were injured. The gruesome industrial disaster had brought the issue of workplace safety to the limelight across the globe and there was a growing clamour among international buyers to boycott Bangladeshi products, accusing the country for poor workplace safety.

But ten years down the line, the country’s RMG industry stands tall and strong. Export earnings from this sector have more than trebled – from approximately USD 15 billion in 2013 to USD 44 billion in 2022. The RMG industry encompassing thousands of factories, millions of workers and billions of dollars in investment, has undergone a transformational change. The factories have invested tens of thousands of dollars to ensure structural integrity, workplace safety, improve labour standards and implement social compliance issues. As a result, Bangladesh RMG sector is now considered a global role model in sustainable and ethical manufacturing.

Since the Rana Plaza tragedy the minimum salary for garment workers has also been raised from Tk. 3,000 to 8,000. But amid the current global inflation the sum appears to be too meagre to provide for a decent life for a garment worker and their family members. It is alleged that buyers are not as concerned about ensuring workers a fair wage as they were about ensuring workplace safety. Apparel makers often lament that they are not getting a fair price for their products. They say that they cannot even recoup the cost of adopting safe and environment-friendly practices in the manufacturing process, let alone getting any incentive. Absence of fair price, therefore, is a challenge for the RMG sector to ensure a decent wage for the workers.

Apparel manufacturers are not the only party to the global supply chain. Buyers, brands and retailers are also important links in the chain, and all parties should play their due roles in maintaining social, labour, and environmental standards in the supply chain. Apart from forcing suppliers to maintain due diligence in the manufacturing process, buyers must also pay fair price for garment products so that the workers can lead a dissent life.