On 24 February 2013 Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina handed out compensation to the families of fire victims at Smart Fashion factory of 26 January 2013. The agreement was negotiated by the IndustriALL Regional Office, IndustriALL Bangladesh Council of trade unions (IBC) and brands Inditex and New Look.
Families of the deceased female workers Nasima (28), Josna (19), Laiju (18), Fatema (17) and Nasima (17) gathered in the Prime Minister Office in Dhaka where disbursement ceremony took place. According to the agreement, each family receives 1,049,000 BDT (13,300 USD), and one family with two minor children gets an additional 10 per cent to meet educational costs for minor children. The injured workers as well as those who lost their employment will also receive a compensation. The workers earned an average monthly wage of 4,000 BDT (50 USD).
The payment is shared by Inditex and New Look. In addition employers’ associations Bangladesh Garment Manufactures & Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) each pay 100,000 BDT (1,270 USD) to every family. The Bangladeshi government committed itself to announcing its package very soon.
IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina explained at the ceremony that the agreement was reached and compensation was paid in less than a month after the tragedy at Smart Fashion. He pledged to pursue a similar compensation package with the brands and buyers that sourced from Tazreen Fashion, where another fire killed 112 workers on 26 November 2012.
Raina added that IndustriALL Global Union and IndustriALL Bangladesh Council of trade unions would continue working on labour rights, minimum wage and fire safety in Bangladesh.
Jyrki Raina said, “IndustriALL supports Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government in the vision to expand the garment industry and create millions of new decent jobs. This vision is however threatened by major media attention in Europe and North America about problems related to fire safety, labour rights and very low wages. The good news is that the government is already working on these problem areas where urgent action is needed to improve the image of the industry:
· The revision of the Labour Act 2006 to facilitate the registration of new local trade union organizations is in its final stage.
· Minimum wages of 3,000 BDT (38 USD) per month need to be raised considerably, followed by annual revisions, as a number of neighbouring countries such as Indonesia (200 USD), China (200 USD) and Thailand (300 USD) have done in January.
· Following a tripartite fire safety agreement signed by the Bangladeshi government, BGMEA and BKMEA and IBC on 15 January, a National Action Plan is planned to be finalized by 28 February. IndustriALL has convened major brands and buyers to its global head office in Geneva in March to discuss their input to the Plan. IndustriALL is promoting a safety initiative which includes input from all stakeholders in the form of inspections, training and investment to upgrade hazardous installations.”
Earlier the same week, IndustriALL hosted a multi-stakeholder meeting in Dhaka which need for urgent progress on workers’ rights, minimum wages and fire safety in order to secure a sustainable future for the Bangadeshi garment industry and the creation of millions of new decent jobs.