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BRUSSELS – The Bangladeshi Commerce Minister has called for higher prices for the country’s apparel products to reflect factory upgrades that have been made in the wake of Rana Plaza to improve safety. “We’ve modernised the (RMG) factories. We’ve ensured building and fire safety with an improved working environment in place. Owners have invested a lot in these areas but price of apparel products is yet to be hiked. Price needs to be increased urgently,” Tofail Ahmed said.

Mr Ahmed made the comments during his speech at the fourth follow-up meeting of the Sustainability Compact held in Belgium. The Compact was launched after the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy and brings together the EU, the US, Canada, the International Labor Organisation (ILO) and Bangladesh. It aims to bring improvements to labour rights and factory safety in the ready-made garment industry of Bangladesh.

The Minister also claimed Bangladesh has amended its labour laws in recent years and that workers are enjoying better working rights better than anytime in the past.

This claim is strongly refuted by international labour rights groups. In the lead up to the Sustainability Compact meeting, the International Trade Union Congress, claimed there is little progress to report on labour law reform in Bangladesh. In a statement it said: “The ILO supervisory bodies continue to express serious concern over the lack of respect for the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining as well as the persistent violence and discrimination against workers.

“Moreover, the continuation of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which had been assuring the safety of garment factories for the past five years, is now facing serious opposition from the Government of Bangladesh.

“The ITUC is calling on the European Commission to hold the Government of Bangladesh to account for its failure to comply with the labour conditionality of the EU GSP Everything but Arms scheme by initiating an investigation.

“Moreover, the partners of the Sustainability Compact should make it clear that the Accord on Fire and Building Safety must continue to operate until such time as a national regulatory body is fully ready to take over its operations, in order to prevent any further deaths and injuries of workers.”

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