The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, an initiative aimed at maintaining supply chain transparency and improving safety in the South Asian nation’s ready-made garment factories, announced last week that it would double compensation benefits to workers displaced because of factory remediation.
Workers will now receive four months’ wages instead of pay for two months should their factories be shuttered as a result of safety concerns.
The Alliance, established in light of the tragedies that blighted Bangladesh’s garment industry in the last 18 months, set out to inspect the country’s factories to assure adequate working conditions, and five factories have so far been closed for remediation under the program.
In all five cases, structural faults–which is what led to the Rana Plaza building collapse in April last year–were found, raising immediate safety concerns and causing the closures.
Since May, the Alliance and the factory owners, in a 50-50 partnership, have been dispersing funds to support workers from the out of operation factories. The benefits are provided through a $5 million Worker Support Fund set up by the Alliance and its member brands, which include Gap, Walmart, Macy’s and VF Corporation, among others. More than 1,000 workers have benefited from the fund to date.
Wajedul Islam Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Trade Union Kendra said workers’ wages should be protected as per the law of the land when structural repairs are necessary. “While compensation, whatever the amount, is not more valuable than a life, we applaud the Alliance for taking this critical step to protect and respond to the needs of the workers and their families,” he said.
Ellen Tauscher, Alliance Independent Chair and former U.S. Congresswoman, said, “Ensuring that no garment worker has to put herself at risk to earn a living is our top priority, but we believe protecting and supporting workers must go hand in hand.” She added, “We are committed to ensuring as factory safety improvements are made, workers are not expected to pay the price.”