BD – In order to improve the working conditions in Bangladesh the Parliament in Dhaka adopted stricter labour laws on July 15, 2013. The new legislation lays down the setting-up of a central fund aimed to improve the living standard of the workers. Furthermore, the law dictates that factories have to contribute 5% of their annual profit in employee welfare funds. Union members, who took part in protest campaigns, are not allowed to be transferred to other factories belonging to the owners. The Parliament has introduced these measures as a reaction to the demands of the EU, which had threatened to impose penal measures, if the safety standards in the country are not improved. The Government is also negotiating with labour groups and factory owners to determine a new minimum wage. The legal minimum income in Bangladesh is currently 38 US Dollars (approx. 29 Euros) per month.
In addition, 17 North-American retail companies, including Gap, Walmart and Hudson Bay, have committed themselves to invest a total of 42 mil. US Dollars (approx. 32 mil. Euros) over the next five years in the improvement of the safety and working conditions in the textile factories in Bangladesh. However, shortly after its publication, the safety package was criticised by numerous organisations as being nowhere near sufficient. The workers themselves were not given any opportunity to influence the decisions. The critics also referred to the safety package that around 70 international fashion labels have signed, which includes among others far-reaching fire and building protection measures that comply with the international standards. In addition, a training programme is to prepare the employees to deal with emergencies. The fashion companies that have signed the contract are supporting the programme financially, whereby the respective contribution depends on the volume of goods they produce in Bangladesh.
1,129 people were killed when the Rana Plaza textile factory collapsed on April 24, 2013 on the outskirts of the capital city Dhaka. Several floors had been built on top of the buildings, where also international concerns had garments manufactured, without building permission. The textile industry is the country’s largest employer providing around 4 mil. people with jobs. The annual export volume is approx. 21 bil. US Dollars (16 bil. Euros), whereby around 60% of the exported goods are destined for Europe.