Expressing its concern over the recent remarks made by Finance Minister AMA Muhith, the North America-based apparel retailers' group Alliance has urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government to clarify their position in this connection.
The minister in a recent meeting with the leaders of BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association), BKMEA (Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association) and BTMA (Bangladesh Textile Mills Association) likened the retailers' groups Accord and Alliance to a 'noose for the apparel sector in Bangladesh.
"I am truly shocked that a member of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's cabinet would criticise efforts aimed at enhancing safety in the ready-made garment sector, which employs more than 4.0 million women and men and is one of the largest contributors to Bangladesh's growing economy," said Ellen Tauscher, Independent Chair of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, in a statement issued on Friday.
"I am hopeful that the government of Bangladesh will clarify its position and demonstrate unequivocal support for the Alliance and other initiatives working to improve the safety of its people and the sustainability of its economy," she said.
In 2013 the Alliance and its members committed to invest $50 million over a five-year period to upgrade member factories to meet international fire and safety standards and ensure garment workers were not risking their lives to earn a living.
The Alliance has inspected 100 per cent of the factories, from which its members source their products. It is working to implement corrective action plans and assist factory owners with remediation efforts.
When temporary closure of a factory due to remediation is necessary, the Alliance pays 50 per cent of the salary of each factory worker for up to four months, with the remaining 50 per cent covered by the factory owner.
The Alliance is also empowering factory workers by training them on safety measures and giving them the voice to refuse unsafe work. "This commitment is ironclad but limited to five years. The government of Bangladesh must commit to support and continue this effort to ensure sustainability of the reforms achieved by the Alliance and other initiatives, beginning in 2018," the statement added.
"Comments like those attributed to the finance minister and other officials in Bangladesh raise serious and significant concerns about the commitment of the government to this unprecedented and private sector-led and funded safety initiative," Ms Tauscher said.
The Alliance urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government to clarify their position on the great work being done and significant financial contributions being made toward improving factory safety, and make clear their intentions to continue this work for the benefit of factory workers, the garment sector and the country as a whole.
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