In response to the global media coverage of recent tragedies within the Dhaka garment industry, consumers and the public are demanding accountability from Western retailers for their lack of corporate social responsibility throughout their supply chain. Bangladesh, in turn, has seen a drastic shift in worker's rights overnight.
The Bangladesh government amended the 2006 Labor Act, now granting the country's 4 million garment workers the right to form trade unions without approval from factory owners. The right to unionize will allow workers to voice their demands via collective bargaining tactics. The amendment also calls for the formation of a workers' welfare fund into which owners of export-oriented companies within the country will have to contribute, thus providing group insurance to workers. Wage cheating has also been addressed, and income will be deposited directly into band accounts.
Further, five of Europe's largest retailers - H&M, Inditex, C&A, Primark and Tesco - have signed the five-year "Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh". Marks & Spencer, Bennetton, and Mango followed suit, amongst others. Interestingly, there has been little activity from American retailers, aside from PVH Corp who signed the agreement last year. Wal-Mart, which is the second largest importer of Bangladeshi goods, and Gap Inc have opted out in favor of internally developed plans. Unfortunately, this implementation inconsistency could result in differing policies amongst factories within the industry.
Officials in Bangladesh have formed a panel consisting of garment workers, factory owners, and government representatives to negotiate the increase of wages for factory workers within three months. Even after the historic protests to increase wages in 2010, Bangladesh currently has one of the lowest minimum wage amounts at just 3,000 takas (approximately $38.55 at current exchange) per month.
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