Rights group demands protection for Bangladesh workers
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday criticized the Bangladeshi government for failing to protect workers, saying not enough is being done to eliminate assault, intimidation and other abuses common in the garment industry.
Phil Robertson, the rights watchdog’s deputy director in Asia, called on the government and foreign retailers to ensure that factory owners and management start respecting workers’ rights.
A 78-page report released by the group said cases of abuse often go unpunished, and workers regularly face intimidation or beatings. The report was based on interviews with more than 160 employees, speaking anonymously and mostly in the garment industry providing clothing for brand-named companies in North America, Europe and Australia.
“It is not enough to focus on factory safety alone,” it said.
The report detailed incidents recounted by workers of assault, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, forced overtime, non- payment of full wages and denial of paid maternity leave. Most employees in garment factories are women, while most managers are men.
Bangladesh has been under pressure to clean up the industry since it suffered its worst industrial disaster when Rana Plaza, an illegally built, multistoried building located outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, collapsed in 2013 killing 1,127 people and injuring about 2,500. It housed five garment factories.
Bangladesh has 5,000 garment factories and 4 million garment workers. It earns more than US$20 billion ( NT$621 billion) a year from exports of its garment products, mainly to the United States and Europe.Workers trying to form or join unions still risk being fired, verbally threatened or physical assaulted by factory management or hired thugs, despite new laws making it easier to form unions, the report said. Fewer than 10 percent of the factories have unions.
The group noted progress in hiring more inspectors to monitor the safety and work conditions, but said more resolve was needed to crack down on violations.