By Matthew Milasius
Bangladesh is a major garment exporter. In 2016, garments accounted for more than 80 percent of exports, amounting to over $25 billion USD. Despite the enormous value manufacturing garments brings to Bangladesh, there’s a less savory side to all this commerce: a lack of safety.
The Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 is an infamous manufacturing safety story with roots in Bangladesh. Tragically, over 1,100 people died, and this featured article reports that the prospects for truly improving safety in the garment manufacturing since then are still slim.
For example, one of the outcomes of Rana Plaza was the establishment of the European “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh”. Yet years after this incident, many factories still do not meet the standards outlined in the Accord. Further jeopardizing the safety of Bangladeshi garment workers, the High Court of Bangladesh also put a hold on continuing the Accord past 2018.
A new program, called Shonman, will instead carry on the work of the Accord and other plans formulated by NGOs to improve safety. This program is backed by Prime Minister Sheik Hasina, whom the featured article says:
[Hasina’s] implicit support of Shonman only bolsters her already-strong track record of backing factory owners over workers. She recently told workers that NGOs are after a cut of their pay, and that it is workers’ responsibility to hold the factories to account for their pay and conditions.
For importers, these uncertainties about the fate of the safety of garment workers and improvement programs could have implications for social compliance. To source with confidence from Bangladesh, audits and special consideration for the workers are needed. Otherwise, importers might unwittingly continue to support business as usual when really they should push for reforms.
To read more about the garment industry in Bangladesh, check out the full article in the link below:
Battered Bangladesh Risks Everything on Unsafe Factories – Aaron L Connelly and Elliott Brennan, The Interpreter
Matthew Milasius is a Client Manager at InTouch Manufacturing Services, a QC firm that performs product inspections and factory audits in Asia for clients in the US, EU and Australia.