An ecumenical advocacy pack to press for the rights of garment workers in Bangladesh is being produced by the Anglican Alliance.
The move is the result of the work of Bishop Paul S Sarker and the Church of Bangladesh which moved quickly to support people devastated by the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory which resulted in more than 1,000 deaths.
In recent months the readymade garment manufacturing industry in Bangladesh has faced serious questions as working conditions similar to that of slavery have reached international headlines.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory, which claimed more than 1000 lives, has revealed the tragic reality that workers are severely exploited in this industry, working for less than minimum wage and in life-threatening conditions.
Examples of this can be seen in research that shows, for example, that from the value of a t-shirt, 60% is taken by international buyers and retailers. Out of the remaining 40%, material and establishment costs take 35%, resulting in only 1% being spent on labour wages.
On average a worker earns around USD 38 per month, far below the poverty level of income and under the minimum wage rate stipulated in the country’s labour laws.
The garment industry is a major source of Bangladesh economy, but now comes under pressure from international agents importing the goods due to these constant irregularities and the exploitation of workers. The United States has recently suspended their Generalised System of Preference for Bangladesh, which would lower the export tariffs for the country, in light of the revealed neglection of the rights of garment workers.
The Church of Bangladesh (COB) responded immediately to the Rana Plaza disaster, and assisted the victims with emergency needs. An appeal, submitted through the Anglican Alliance, called for support from churches and agencies to equip the Church in their work. This included rehabilitating the poor victims, supporting treatment, and educating those who could not return to work in alternative livelihoods.
The appeal has received a warm response, and has raised BDT 671,473, which is USD 8,720. The Church of Bangladesh and the Anglican Alliance would like to thank all the Churches that have contributed, for their generous support in this time of need.
Bishop Paul S Sarker, Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, has initiated a further plan to raise awareness of the plight of people involved in garment industries. Arranging a consultation to gather various stakeholders in the garment industry, both from Bangladesh and abroad, he wants to draw up a framework for advocacy for fair trade in the industry. He aims both to educate people as to the harmful working environments and unjust employment conditions that workers face, whilst ensuring Bangladesh is not relegated from export markets due to their failure to fulfill world trade terms.
The Anglican Alliance toolkit for advocacy will be available from the beginning of September, and is working with ecumenical partners. A preliminary meeting was held during the recent Us conference, and the resource pack will be launched on September 5th. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and sign up to recieve the pack!