Global unions denounce comments made by Bangladesh Finance Minister

IndustriALL and UNI Global Union have strongly denounced comments made this week by the Bangladesh Finance Minister.

The unions say Mr Abul Maal Abdul Muhith’s comments criticizing the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and describing it as a ‘noose’ around the neck of the garment industry are wholly irresponsible.

The negative remarks risk jeopardizing the garment industry in Bangladesh and undermine the good work of the Accord say the unions in a letter to the Minister.

“The minister’s remarks are inaccurate and irresponsible. The Accord is a positive game changer for the Bangladeshi garment industry and his comments put at risk its future sustainability,” said UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings.

The Accord, a legally-binding agreement between unions and more than 200 brand signatories, is designed to improve safety in the Bangladesh garment industry following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in April 2013, which killed more than 1,100 garment workers and injured over 2000.

The Accord has inspected more than 1,600 garment factories and made safety recommendations for each and every one.

“Let’s not forget that prior to the Accord, self-regulation by brands and government inspections failed to prevent Bangladesh’s worst-ever industrial accident at Rana Plaza, which killed more than a thousand people,” said IndustriALL’s General Secretary Jyrki Raina.

The Minister reportedly made the remarks at a meeting of garment industry employer associations. He claimed that the confidence of the brands in the Bangladesh garment industry has already been won and therefore the Accord should cease its operations.

This could not be farther from the truth. The danger for the Bangladeshi garment industry is not over and the factories are not yet safe.

In their letter to the Minister, Jyrki Raina and UNI secretary general, Philip Jennings, call on the Minister to stop sending negative messages to factories that could have the effect of delaying or undermining essential factory safety improvements.

IndustriALL and UNI have also written to BGMEA President Atiqul Islam to take issue with comments he made at the same meeting, and were subsequently reported in the media, describing the Accord as a ‘big problem’ for Bangladesh’s readymade apparel industry.

Islam’s remarks were made in relation to efforts by the Accord to ensure reinstatement of workers who were dismissed for reporting a fire and safety concern.  It is crucial that workers can effectively raise violations of safety regulations and workers’ rights without fear of retaliation so that there is not a repeat of Rana Plaza when the workers did raise concerns but were forced into the building anyway.

“It is crucial that workers can effectively raise violations of safety regulations and workers’ rights without fear of retaliation so that there is not a repeat of Rana Plaza when the workers did raise concerns but were forced into the building anyway,” said Raina.

IndustriALL and UNI will continue to support the work of the Accord in Bangladesh until the factories are safe.