The study claimed that while factory safety had improved since the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster, Bangladesh is backsliding on workers’ rights
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has questioned the sources of the report for the US Senate committee that claimed the country is backsliding on workers' rights.
"Most of the reports mostly refer to newspapers and e-mails. A newspaper report cannot be referred to as the primary source of information," BGMEA President Rubana Huq wrote in response to the report.
The study for the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations claimed that while factory safety had improved since the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster, Bangladesh is backsliding on workers' rights.
"This assumption must be quantified. Otherwise, random references and the danger of falling into a rhetorical situation may often belittle the objectivity of the report," Rubana replied to Senator Robert Menendez, ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Relations.
The report said that ready-made garment workers in Bangladesh are being abused – verbally, physically and sexually.
US researchers traveled to Dhaka in July last year to speak to Bangladeshi garment workers, union activists, government officials and civil society representatives for the study which was published last week.
The BGMEA president, replying to the findings, said that the value of checking the veracity of the local source must also be taken into consideration before a complaint is directly lodged with regulatory agencies or governments abroad.
"This is unfortunate to note that the industry is often trapped in words such as 'few', 'about', 'some', 'most', etc."
"The essential approach should not be punitive and should not kindly be directed towards special enquiry or bringing an anti-GSP campaign, which can potentially jeopardise workers' employment," said the association.
Bangladesh ranks behind only China as a supplier of clothes to western countries and relies on the garment industry for more than 80 percent of its exports. The apparel sector also employs about 4.4 million people.
"Our position will not be one of defence, rather we would like to correct what has gone wrong," BGMEA President Rubana Huq assured.
She appealed to the senator to share the findings in detail with the BGMEA instead of depending on secondary and tertiary sources.
The US study came amid concerns over the ending of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh on May 31. The mechanism led by European fashion brands is credited for improving working conditions in more than 1,000 factories in Bangladesh.
It will be replaced by a private monitoring entity, RMG Sustainability Council, which will be made up of factory owners, union leaders and brand owners.