The ready-made garment industry has been the primary engine of this nation’s economic growth, but it is regrettable that worker rights safety standards have continued to lag behind.
But who is to blame?
A number of major UK retailers, like Marks & Spencer, Next, John Lewis, Debenhams, and Sainsbury’s are dragging their feet when it comes to signing up to Bangladesh’s latest laws on fire and safety.
Considering our foreign buyers have previously criticized Bangladesh for its poor worker safety standards, is their reluctance to sign the safety deal not an act of hypocrisy?
The deal, tentatively being referred to as Accord 2.0, would further improve upon the original agreement that was created after the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013 which claimed 1,135 lives, and would pave the way for greater investment in health and safety checks.
We realize that the reason foreign buyers are so interested in Bangladeshi apparels is our relatively low labour costs, but if they are serious about improved worker safety, then refusing to invest in those improvements reveals their double standards in the matter.
In the past, we have seen calls from foreign outlets to boycott the Dhaka Apparel Summit ostensibly in support of garment worker demands.
But it is unacceptable that these foreign buyers take advantage of Bangladeshi market conditions while pretending to take the moral high ground.
Foreign retailers cannot have their cake and eat it too.
If they wish to see improvements in worker safety, they need to pay up.