Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
Published: 2015-06-14 21:23:10 BdST
Lilianne Ploumen says it is the responsibility of the government and industry owners to ensure factory safety and workers’ rights.
“But it is also the responsibility of buyers, retailers and consumers to come up with true pricing,” she said at a press briefing, flanked by Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, on Sunday.
“We have to address the true pricing jointly,” she said and promised to support efforts to convene a conference on the issue.
The press briefing was preceded by a close-door interaction with RMG stakeholders both within the government, the industry, and the development partners.
Ambassadors of the European countries and the US were also present at the event at a Dhaka hotel where post-Rana Plaza developments were assessed.
The Apr 2013 disaster has drawn global attention to factory safety and worker rights, stirring development partners to roll out an action plan.
Netherlands is one of the largest buyers of Bangladeshi garments where this main export item enjoys duty-free market access.
Industry owners have been saying they are not getting a fair price for their products.
The Dutch minister said they had discussed, among other things, the issue of “true pricing” in the meeting.
The pricing question also figured in a joint statement issued after the talks.
In the joint statement, the Dutch minister “affirmed her support to convening a conference in Bangladesh to address the issues related to ‘access to finance’ and ‘fair pricing’ in the RMG sector in the near future”.
At the briefing, she said if there was “a fair wage, there has to be a fair price”.
“Working together, we can come up with some guidance”.
This is Ploumen’s third visit to Bangladesh after the Rana Plaza collapse.
She said, since then, many challenges had been tackled including those of increasing the minimum wage, factory inspection, and labour law reforms.
“We have to celebrate the progress that has been made, but still some challenges remained.”
She identified “unauthorised sub-contracting”, and the issue of forming labour union as some of the other unresolved challenges.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said there was agreement on the improvements made since the Rana Plaza disaster.
He also raised the issue of fair pricing at the press briefing.
The factories had to spend a lot to ensure fire safety, building safety, and structural integrity, but the product prices had not correspondingly increased in the international market.
Even the euro had been devaluated, he further said, affecting Bangladesh’s main clothing export market in the EU.
He thanked Netherlands for its “maximum support” in all sectors of Bangladesh since independence.
He, however, criticised Accord for “unnecessary interference in internal” matters of factories in the name of “social audit”.
“They are creating obstacles. Their duty is to check factory safety, not workers’ well-being and how they are working,” he said.
“They don’t have the right to interfere in internal issues”, he said, without elaborating.
In the joint statement, both ministers underscored that “fair pricing should also reflect, among others, the cost of fire, structural, and electrical safety, and reasonable working hour in order to avoid workers having to pay the ultimate price through poor working conditions”.