DHAKA – Labour rights groups in Bangladesh are calling for better financial protection for workers in the wake of industrial accidents. The groups point out that since Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, over 540 workers have been killed and injured in factory accidents in the country’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector. After a worldwide campaign came to their aid, the family members of the Rana Plaza workers received compensation, but over five years later, the labour groups argue there is still no government law that entitles families of the workers injured in other incidents to compensation.
They say a solution to this would be a national employment injury insurance scheme, funded by employers to cover all workers. In 2015 the Government of Bangladesh started work on a scheme to provide such insurance, but three years on, the progress is limited, say the groups.
Bangladeshi labour rights activist Kalpona Akter says: “All these disasters we have seen, with difficult compensation process and only limited options for compensation in Bangladesh labour law, show how much we need a national employment injury insurance scheme. Union federations and workers’ rights organizations in Bangladesh demand that the government pass legislation to make this possible and to make a national employment injury insurance scheme operational as soon as possible.”
In June this year, at an international meeting where the Government of Bangladesh was present, major brands expressed support for an employment injury benefit scheme, indicating they felt it would also improve Bangladesh’s image as an investment market. The brands also suggested they would cover the costs required to do this in their purchasing practices.
Ben Vanpeperstraete, advocacy coordinator at Clean Clothes campaign says: “Over 130 countries in the world cover employment injury as part of their social security system, but Bangladesh is not one of them, although the scheme is affordable. Contribution to a national employment injury insurance scheme would amount to about 0.005 per cent of the retail price of a garment. Employers would have to contribute about 0.3 per cent of the wage sum. International buying brands should support this by factoring these costs into their pricing with factories. Less than the price of a basic t-shirt per year could insure a worker against insecurity and the worst forms of poverty after a workplace tragedy.”
Editor’s comment: Perhaps it is time the Bangladesh government established this scheme and encouraged employers to sign up to it. As well as being the right thing to do, it would also undoubtedly be good for business.