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26 Apr 2023

New Age

Bangladesh: Transparency International Bangladesh flags ‘exploitative practices’ by brands as ‘most formidable challenge’ to sustainability in the garment industry

"Free RMG industry of exploitation, says TIB", 26 April 2023

Anti-graft watchdog Transparency International Bangladesh said...that the exploitative practices of some brands and buyers, together with the continued failure of relevant authorities to ensure workers’ rights-sensitive governance, had posed the most formidable challenges to the sustainability of the Bangladesh readymade garment industry.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Rana  Plaza tragedy, TIB has called upon international brands and buyers of Bangladeshi RMG to conduct business with integrity, saying that ethical sourcing is the key to the sustainability of the sector.

‘Exploitative practices of some brands and buyers motivated by short-term profitability at the expense of business integrity together with continued failure of relevant authorities to ensure accountable and workers’ rights-sensitive governance pose the most formidable challenges of sustainability of the industry,’ TIB said in a statement...

The statement said that despite...progress, the profit-obsessed RMG industry continued to face the main challenge of transitioning to a workers’ rights-sensitive business model, leaving the key concerns of RMG workers, who are the main factor of profitability and sustainability of the industry, at bay.

‘Practically nothing has happened in 10 years to ensure accountability of those responsible for the tragedy and the facilitators and protectors of non-compliance. Victims of the Rana Plaza disaster and other tragic accidents and their families have been treated more with a charitable approach at best rather than the right to compensation principle,’ TIB mentioned.

It also said that the new labour law, despite many credible provisions, was widely considered to have fallen short of being enough to ensure some key workers’ rights, including the prevention of harassment for exercising the right to decent work, freedom of association, and protection against discrimination.

Raising a question over the continuation of the factory safety programme designed by the global brands’ initiative Accord, TIB has said that the safety standards have now been overseen by the RMG Sustainability Council, which follows a problem-solving mechanism without much discretion.

The statement said that another ILO-supported initiative, the Remediation Coordination Cell, had handed over all responsibilities to the Industrial Safety Unit of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, following which inspections had decreased by half in the past financial year, while the quality of inspections remained questionable due to alleged corruption...

Citing a recent global study, TIB said that unreasonable price reductions, delaying deliveries, withholding payments, cancelling bookings, and other unpredictabilities of international buyers had become normal in the sector since the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

‘...The ultimate burden of such practices is shifted to the workers in the form of low and irregular salaries and benefits,’ TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman said...

Iftekharuzzaman called upon international buyers to refrain from such practices.

TIB also called upon the government to reform the labour law, review the minimum wage of workers to be consistent with the cost of living, push the agenda of a living wage, and remove barriers against the exercise of workers’ right to form trade unions and collective bargaining.