BASUG’s project, “Clean Clothes: Improve Occupational Safety and Health Compliances of Ready Made Garments (RMG) workers in Bangladesh” is going on in full swing since October 2014. The broad objectives of this 18-months project supported by Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and Centre for International Migration are to create awareness, improve the occupational safety and health compliances in the RMG industry and ensure social security of the RMG workers in Bangladesh.
The Ready Made Garments (RMG) sector is significantly important in Bangladesh, both economically and socially. Nearly 4.2 million workers are employed in 5400 RMG factories across the country , mostly women, and again half of whom come from rural areas. RMG sector is the biggest export earner of Bangladesh with $24.49 billion of exports in the last financial year (July 2013-June 2014). Despite the huge growth of this sector and its bright prospects, there are challenges too. One of the biggest challenges being faced by RMG factories is to ensure workplace safety and better working conditions for the workers. Lack of safety compliances in RMG factories caused two grave incidents in recent past in Bangladesh- one the fire incident at Tazreen Fashions Factory in Savar near Dhaka killing 117 workers and injuring 200 others, and collapse of Rana Plaza Complex, also in Savar, killing 1126 workers and thousands injured in 2012 and 2013 respectively. The RMG workers, mostly women also face many problems in the working places including safety and health risk, social risk, sexual violence etc.
BASUG observes that the Bangladeshi migrants living in Germany and other European countries have a great responsibility to address the issues and should engage themselves with the German and European buyers and consumers, policy makers and advocate with them to ensure the social and occupational safety of the garment workers in the RMG factories in Bangladesh. The gravity of the problems prevailing in the garment sector in Bangladesh is no more a new phenomenon. But engagement of an Diaspora organisation to address the issues in order to improve the situation is a new phenomenon.
Through this project, attempts will be made to create an awareness on the issues among different stakeholders and create a situation so that the RMG owners take steps for the proper implementation of the occupational safety and health security measures in the RMG factories. Under this project BASUG will organise two workshops in Dhaka and Chittagong, three training on health and safety measures for RMG workers in both citites, a documentary film, TV talk shows and also two separate workshops in Hamburg and Berlin. The Hamburg workshop will be held on 21 March 2015 at A&O Hostel, (www.aohostels.com) Spaldingstr 160, 20097 Hamburg, while the workshop in Berlin is scheduled to be held sometime in April-May 2015 (date is yet to be finalised). Different stakeholders including the Bangladesh Embassy in Germany, development and civil society organisations, rights based organisations, policy makers, buyers, consumers and Bangladeshi migrant community members are expected to attend the program. It will be followed by a cultural program.
We hope that through such initiatives, the RMG owners and policy makers of Bangladesh will be sensitized to provide basic rights of the garment workers including fair deal in the working hour and payment, ensure health safety and occupational security, take measures to stop sexual harassment in the factories. It is true that we cannot change the world in a number of workshops or programs or trainings. But we are convinced that we as migrant organisation would be taken very seriously by all the parties involved. It is a unique initiative where migrants are directly involved, who can influence the consumers, buyers and who are uniquely positioned. We believe that garments owners will also welcome our initiative, as we understand their position, their concern, while we equally understand the concern of the workers. Our presence is at both ends and we can serve the purpose of all the parties involved. Efforts will also be made to bring together western media, owners of RMG factories, buyers and policy makers on the same table discussion to avoid and stop negative campaign or protest against buying garment products from Bangladesh.
The project is scheduled to end in April 2016.