George Miller, a senior member of the US Congress, arrived in the city yesterday to personally inspect garment factories in Bangladesh, the world’s second largest apparel exporter now under the microscope due to frequent disasters.
The US congressman will meet workers, victims, factory owners and government officials during his visit.
Miller, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, is the first member of Congress to visit Bangladesh since the April 24 Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1,127 people and injured over 2,500 others, making it one of the worst industrial tragedies in world history. The eight-story building housed five garment factories, a bank and a shopping mall.
Miller has been pressing major American companies whose products are made in Bangladesh to sign onto a new building and fire safety agreement. The binding and enforceable accord has already been inked by more than 31 companies worldwide.
“This trip to Bangladesh is an important opportunity to examine the circumstances surrounding the tragic events that have taken so many lives and threaten the lives of so many others,” Miller said in a web release issued from Washington.
“I hope to learn more about three particular aspects of these tragedies and American involvement in this burgeoning industry - worker safety and health conditions and the impact of the recently inked fire and building safety agreement, garment workers’ rights to form unions without fear of retaliation or persecution, and whether Bangladesh is guaranteeing labor rights and acceptable working conditions that are expected if the United States is to maintain tariff relief provided under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a decision on which is expected imminently,” Miller said.
While more than 30 large retailers and brands based in Europe and Canada have signed the agreement to increase safety and workers’ rights at readymade garment factories, only two US companies have joined this historic accord. Most large American companies, like Wal-Mart and GAP, have so far refused to sign on.
Rep Miller has a long history of working against the use of sweatshops and has been urging major brands and retailers to sign on to this accord.
He has called on several companies, including Wal-Mart, GAP, JC Penney, Sears, and The Children’s Place, to ink the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord.
Miller recently penned a front-page editorial on Women’s Wear Daily to urge the fashion industry to come together and improve working conditions in Bangladesh.
Miller and Rep Sander Levin (D-Mich), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, have also urged the Obama administration to coordinate action to improve workers’ rights and working conditions in Bangladesh.
On May 16, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni briefed the congressmen on safety and labour compliance issues in the country’s garment sector, and sought support from all in further improving working conditions.
During a meeting in Washington, the Foreign Minister also responded to various queries from the US congressmen about the recent amendments to Bangladesh's 2006 labour law approved by the Cabinet.