The Transparency International's Bangladesh chapter (TIB) has termed the work done over the last three years by the readymade garments (RMG) sector on improving safety standards as “revolutionary”. According to a study conducted by TIB on the issue of governance in the RMG sector found that 6 out of 68 initiatives have been fully implemented and progress on a further 39 was satisfactory. That means the bulk of the initiatives undertaken by national and international stakeholders are on track. Needless to say such initiatives will go a long way in redeeming the reputation of our single largest export earning sector.
That said the TIB has also pointed out that it is imperative that the remaining initiatives are sped up.There are particular concerns regarding workers' right to unionise to realise their demands. TIB has rightly pointed out that a follow up study is required to find out whether the compensation was enough for the Rana Plaza victims to be rehabilitated. It is highly commendable that about 92 per cent of factories operating in Bangladesh today meet the minimum wage requirement. But when we talk about subcontracting factories, many of which remain outside of the membership of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers' Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knit Manufacturers' Association (BKMEA), enforcement becomes a little trickier. The initiatives must be applied to these factories also.
It is worrying to see that international brands are not doing enough to increase the prices they pay to manufacturers, money sorely needed for upgrading factories to meet standards set by Accord and Alliance. Without that happening, there is little incentive for the sector to do more on safety and welfare of workers.