US Ambassador in Dhaka Dan W Mozena on Thursday said the defiant owners of the readymade garment (RMG) who are ‘unwilling’ to meet the international safety and labour rights standards should ‘close and leave’ their businesses to keep the vibrant export-earning sector free from further risk.
“I think they’ve no right to make their profits by exploiting their workers, thus putting the entire sector at risk as inevitable future Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza disasters destroy the Bangladesh Brand,” he said.
The US diplomat made the remark at the closing session of a two-day training programme in a city hotel at a time when Bangladesh is struggling to get back special trade benefit under the GSP scheme in the US market.
International Labour Organization (ILO) and Department of Labour arranged the training session on Bangladesh Labour Law focusing on the 2013 amendment.
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, M Faizur Rahman, ILO Country Director Srinivas B Reddy and BGMEA Vice President Reaz-Bin-Mahmood Sumon, among others, spoke on the occasion.
The US Ambassador, however, said some factory owners are fully engaged in supporting transformation of their individual factories and of the sector overall.
Mozena said the BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) must ensure that all owners are part of the solution to transforming the sector to help Bangladesh become global model for apparel production and export.
He appreciated the government for its ‘powerful leadership’ to transform the RMG sector following the roadmap of the GSP Action Plan and the Sustainability Compact.
“However, more remains to be done on numerous fronts, including hiring 200 new inspectors, establishing and utilising a publicly accessible database and proper implementation of the amended Labour Law,” Mozena said.
He hoped that much more progress will be made on all the fronts before the April 15 deadline for submitting input to the next review of Bangladesh’s GSP privileges in the USA.
The diplomat laid emphasis on the amended Labour law and said without implementing regulations and procedures the reforms will have little practical impact, and Bangladesh will fall short in lifting the nation’s huge RMG sector to international standards.
Terming Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza tragedies ‘horrible days’ in Bangladesh history, the US envoy said both tragedies could have been avoided. “…the darkest, darkest clouds of the Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse do have a silver lining.”
He said the transformation of the sector will help ensure that never again will the valiant workers of this country be consumed in the flames of fire or be crushed by the collapse of unsafe buildings.
Mozena said Bangladesh can be the largest apparel exporter in the world. “That is the challenge….I believe Bangladesh will triumph in achieving this goal.”
Speaking at the function, ILO Country Director Reddy laid emphasis on proper implementation of the amended Labour Law saying it can not be very good law unless it is implemented and if it really doesn’t translate into actions.