[QODLink]
Central & South Asia

Bangladesh overhauls factory safety laws

Activists say they have raised concerns over legislation passed following deadly factory collapse in April.

Last Modified: 15 Jul 2013 15:13
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
The collapse of an eight-storey building in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, prompted the new legislation [AFP]

Bangladesh has approved a new labour law to strengthen employees' rights and improve workplace safety, following a factory building collapse that killed more than 1,100 people.

Parliament passed the "historic" legislation, drawn up in the wake of the factory collapse in April that spotlighted appalling conditions and the lack of rights for workers at the country's 4,500 garment factories.

The new law "ensured full trade union rights" for millions of labourers, including those in factories making clothes for Western retailers, the head of the parliamentary committee on labour issues said.

"The new laws are historic," Israful Alam told AFP.

Under the new law, workers no longer need approval from factory owners to form trade unions and insurance for workers is now also mandatory, Alam said.

Workplace safety

Bangladesh, the world's second largest garment exporter, has been under intense international pressure to overhaul labour laws in the wake of the tragedy, one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

The United States last month cancelled a trade privilege for Bangladesh, alleging that it has not done enough to ensure workplace safety.

The new law says structural changes to factories will be banned without permission from government inspectors, amid concerns that new floors are often added to buildings, which cannot structurally support the extra weight.

The nine-storey Rana Plaza building collapsed on April 24 outside the capital Dhaka, trapping thousands.

Cracks had appeared in the building one day before it caved in, and three floors had been added over the years to the original structure, a move which investigators partly blamed for the tragedy.

Padlocking factory exit gates - a common practice at plants - is banned under the law following recent fires that killed workers unable to flee.

Local union leaders said they were studying the new legislation.

"We had raised some concerns. We hope they have addressed those issues. Otherwise this legislation will be a futile exercise," labour leader Wajedul Islam told AFP.

Bangladesh initially expressed outrage at US President Barack Obama's decision last month to cut duty-free access for some of its products.

But the country, desperate to persuade Western retailers to stay put, swiftly drew up legislative reforms.

Bangladesh is the world's second largest garment producer after China and the industry is the mainstay of the economy, accounting for 80 percent of the country's $25 billion annual exports.

389

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.