Since the tragic day when Rana Plaza collapsed four years ago, Bangladesh has made great strides in ensuring worker safety as a principle in the RMG industry.
With more than 80% of reported safety hazards fixed and less than 2% violating workers’ safety (of which any have been closed), this deserves praise. Though there is much room for improvement, we have achieved much in improving the conditions under which RMG employees have to work.
However, despite the improvements in safety, when it comes to their rights, we are still lagging behind.
The people working in RMG are some of the lowest paid in the world, with a minimum wage of $68, or Tk5,300, month.
There’s something very wrong with that.
While our economy’s reliance on RMG and the competitive global market means that we need to keep wages low, this cannot come at the cost of the basic rights of the workers who give their lives to the job.
While the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which were signed soon after the Rana Plaza disaster, have ensured that all stake-holders are involved in implementing safer workplaces, it has not done enough in ensuring that workers receive a living wage.
But the RMG companies are not the ones solely to blame.
The foreign companies who are also involved in the process, and demand the lowest the prices to make maximum profit, must also be held accountable.
It is because of this cut-throat culture that so many people’s rights have been sacrificed.
With Bangladesh’s dreams of middle-income status within reach, we have to ensure that our workers are being taken care of.