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New Bangladeshi law strengthens worker protections

In April, the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse killed 1,132 workers

A new Bangladeshi law, approved in the wake of April’s deadly garment factory collapse, will give new protections to workers in the country.

The law includes provisions that will make it easier for workers to unionize, require employers to set aside 5 percent of yearly profits in employee welfare funds and establish a central fund to improve workers’ living standards, Reuters reports.

The country’s legislature passed the measure after increased international scrutiny of Bangladeshi labor practices. On April 24, the eight-story Rana Plaza building, located in a suburb of Dhaka, collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people and temporarily trapping thousands of others under the debris.  Garment factory workers were reportedly told to come to work on the day of the collapse, even though government inspectors had ordered the evacuation of the building.

The European Union responded to the disaster by threatening to take away the preferential access that it gives to the Bangladeshi garment industry. The U.S. also cut off duty benefits, although the move was largely symbolic, considering that clothing is not eligible for American duty reductions.

Some observers say that the new worker safety provisions do not go far enough. Human Rights Watch, for instance, notes that the Bangladesh’s laws still make it difficult for workers to form unions or go on strike.

“The government has not only missed a golden opportunity to get rid of provisions that limit workers’ rights, it has even snuck into the law new and harmful regulations,” the organization’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said. “Even after Rana Plaza, the government still is not fully committed to the protection of workers’ rights and safety.”

For more InsideCounsel coverage of Bangladesh, see:

Wal-Mart and other retailers meet about factory safety in Bangladesh

Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney join garment factory safety talks

Bangladeshi High Court orders seizure of assets following factory collapse

Wal-Mart and Sears won’t compensate factory fire victims

Alanna Byrne

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