bdnews24.com : Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has demanded import duty exemptions in the next budget on those equipments which would be required to make the readymade garment factories safer and environment friendly. The apex body of the apparel exporters placed the demand amid rising concern of foreign buyers over unsafe working condition at garment factories in the wake of last year’s Rana Plaza building collapse. BGMEA President Atiqul Islam made the demand at a press conference on Saturday ahead of the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, which killed over 1,100 people and injured over 2,000, mostly readymade garment workers. The tragic incident was seen as a wake-up call to western fashion industry that had been operating an unsustainable supply chain for decades. Domestic and international campaigners for better working condition have been demanding for the past 12 months that the retail brands whose clothes were made in these factories sign up for a stricter set of safety regulations. Islam said that the exemption of duties on the import of building and fire safety equipment would enable them to bring in gadgets at reasonable costs, which would help make the factories safer. He said that a doa mahfil and memorial service would be held in every garment factory across the country on April 24 to mark the first anniversary of the worst industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history. A mourning procession will be brought out from the BGMEA building at 11am on that day. In the wake of Rana Plaza tragedy and the devastating fire that killed 112 workers at Tazreen Fashions in Ashulia in November 2012, foreign buyers have been asking Bangladesh to ensure ‘credible action’ to address health and safety issues of workers. Atiqul Islam said that the government had provided support in this regard but sought more help. “The government has already cut duties on the import of fire extinguishers to 15 percent from 62 percent. Besides, we demand exemption of duty on the import of machinery required to upgrade the factories and to make them environment-friendly.” He urged the government and foreign buyers to come forward to ensure safety standards in the garment factories across Bangladesh. Family members of the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster received the first instalment of the compensation on March 24. Islam said that the BGMEA had so far disbursed Tk 145,008,000 as compensation from its own fund while Tk 221,255,720 was disbursed from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund to the family members of the victims. Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar and former BGMEA President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin were present at the press conference.
‘BGMEA should pay more for Rana Plaza victims’
Readymade garment factory owners should contribute more to the prime minister’s fund for Rana Plaza collapse victims, says the PM’s adviser HT Imam. “It will depend on the DNA test results to decide how long it will take to compensate the victims. I think the BGMEA must contribute to this fund. However, even if they fail to do so, the government will do everything possible for the workers,” he said at a talk-show organised by the BBC Bengali service on Saturday. Imam said that the government has already disbursed Tk 220 million as compensation for the victims. He added that more victims could be compensated once the DNA test results are available. Replying to Imam’s remark, President of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (BGMEA) Atiqul Islam said at the programme that they would contribute to the fund if they manage to get money. The BGMEA contributed Tk 20 million to the fund when it was formed last year after the collapse, which left over 1,100 people dead, mostly garment factory workers. Answering a query from the ‘BBC Sanglap’ moderator on contributing to the fund, Islam said, “It may appear that the BGMEA has lot of money. But the truth is a lot of owners are not able to run their factories.” Workers’ leader Nazma Aktar stressed on the need to amend the law for compensating workers. “The assistance from the prime minister’s fund does not come under the compensation law. The current law should be reformed to make it more worker-friendly,” she said.