Publishes by The Daily Star on May 11, 2013 (Link Above)
Recent collapse of Rana Plaza and loss of lives and injury in consequence has once again brought the issues of safety and security of workers particularly working in the garments sector under limelight nationally and internationally. Most of such tragedies taken place so far are due to fire or collapse of building. The Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 (BLA) is the primary law for the workers.
Safety of building, machinery and precaution against fire are dealt by BLA in separate chapters. However, the requirement to provide fire fighting apparatus and alternative stairway seems to be ineffective in practice. It is also needed to keep means of exit distinctively marked in Bengali open at all times. But on most of the occasions of fire, it is seen that alternative exit is not provided and the only gate is kept locked by the factory staff. Moreover, the owners do not comply with the requirement to hold mock fire fighting in a year. Considering, dangerous state of building, the inspectors have been empowered to serve written order to the employer in order to remove such danger to human life or safety. But doubt remains over the adequacy of this provision as it is almost impossible for the inspectors to monitor and ensure compliance by the factories across the country.
BLA provides for compensating workers for death, permanent disablement and partial disablement. However, the amount to be compensated seems to be inadequate as far as earning capacity of the aggrieved workers is concerned. Had the amount been more, the owners would have been practically bound to ensure compliance and recurrence of such tragedies could have been prohibited.
BLA does not contain any penal provision as far as non compliance with the provisions of safety is concerned. But it imposes imprisonment up to three months or fine up to one thousand taka or with both for any non compliance (like safety of building, fire) which is not specifically dealt with. Hence, this punishment seems to be inadequate considering severity of such non compliance by the owners. Moreover, considering the safety of building there are legislations to address it. However, the penal provision containing therein is also inadequate. For instance: the Building Construction Act 1952 imposes penalty of imprisonment up to seven years or with a minimum fine of fifty thousand taka or with both. Apart from the legislation, approving authorities like RAJUK have also failed to monitor overall construction of building. Moreover, due to the existence of corruption in every department of such approving authorities, it has become easier for unscrupulous people to construct building in violation of the Building Code there by endangering lives of innocent people.
BLA also provides for constitution of trade unions. But in practice, such trade unions are not effective due to lack of harmony between the workers and the owners. Moreover, infiltration of politics in trade unions has also kept the leaders of the workers to remain focused on their own welfare. Practically workers are unable to enforce their rights provided under the law and also to get redress for any grievance. This is mainly due to the lack of intention on part of the owners which warrants change of attitude.
The recent collapse in Savar, could be the outcome of the negligence of everyone concerned ranging from the building owner, approver, engineer, contractor, politicians and even manufacturers of construction materials. As corruption has polluted every sector of the country, everyone concerned with the building were busy for making their own profits.
Therefore, it may be concluded that such tragedies are recurring due to non enforcement of law which is adequate albeit requires reform to some aspects. The existing legislations have to be reformed in such a manner so that illegal gaining by violating legal provisions does not outweigh the consequences of violating law. In consequence, people will not only be respectful as far as compliance of law is concerned but the tendency of getting rich with the deliberate violation of legal obligations shall also be reduced.