Bangladesh PM urged to ensure workers` safety, rights

More than two dozen Democratic lawmakers have urged Bangladesh to come out with a comprehensive plan to ensure workers’ safety and rights.

Washington: More than two dozen Democratic lawmakers have urged Bangladesh to come out with a comprehensive plan to ensure workers’ safety and rights in view of the tragic death of more than 1,100 workers in a Dhaka factory collapse.

"We believe there is simply no substitute for tough, comprehensive, uncompromising government support for legislation...And administrative action that both empowers workers and prevents more accidents from happening," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday.

Signatories to the letter include Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus Joe Crowley, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Bangladesh.

In addition to the Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, Congressmen pointed to other recent industrial accidents in Bangladesh, including the deadly Tazreen Fashions garment factory fire in November 2012 and the unresolved killing of labour organiser Aminul Islam, as continued issues of concern.

Meanwhile, a group of eight powerful US Senators have also urged the major global retailers to reconsider signing the Accord on Fire Safety in Bangladesh.

In a letter to retailers -- Cato Corporation, Wal-Mart, Sears, Kohl`s, Target, Macy`s, J C Penney, Gap, Mango, George Weston Limited, VF Corporation, The Children`s Place Stores and Corte Ingles - the senators argued that only a legally-binding global accord signed by US and European retailers, rather than self-monitoring or voluntary initiatives, will ensure worker safety in Bangladesh, where workers face hazardous conditions for a minimum wage of USD 38 per month.

"Just over one hundred years ago, a similar tragic accident - the Triangle Shirt Waist fire - spurred action to reform the treatment and safety of garment workers in the United States," said the eight senators - all from the Democratic party.

"Now, in the aftermath of Rana Plaza tragedy - the deadliest garment worker accident the world has seen - it is time to take clear, concrete steps to protect worker safety and worker rights in Bangladesh and around the world," the Senators stressed.

"We urge you to reconsider your decision not to sign the Accord and sign on promptly.”

"European and American retailers purchase two-thirds of Bangladeshi garment production - providing your companies with tremendous market influence and power to ensure that workers, many of whom toil for the Bangladeshi minimum wage of USD 38 per month, have safe working conditions and a voice in the workplace," the letter said.

The Senators said they are writing separately to the US government encouraging it to use every tool at its disposal to ensure that both the Government of Bangladesh and companies doing business there do not invest further or expand Bangladesh`s export sector at the expense of safe and healthy working conditions or fundamental labour rights.

"We urge you to sign the Accord on Fire Safety in Bangladesh to help prevent future tragedies," the Senators added.