Rights group de­mands pro­tec­tion for Bangladesh work­ers

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

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.

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