BANGLADESH: Safe factories would cost “US$0.10 per garment”.

Making Bangladeshi garment factories safe would add US$0.10 to the cost of each garment shipped over the next five years, the country's ambassador to the European Union (EU) said yesterday (17 September).

Speaking to a European Parliament international trade committee assessing progress in Bangladesh following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in April, Ismat Jahan said the bill for factories becoming fully compliant with structural and fire safety rules would be about US$3bn (EUR2.24bn).

“I believe consumers in the West are ready to pay a small increase in prices for the millions of women who stitch for them in a faraway land,” she said.

Jahan noted, too, that a revision of the minimum wage for garment workers was under way. However, she warned that Bangladesh would not want to shoot itself in the foot by increasing the price of garments produced for Western retailers.

“Realistically speaking, unless we can ensure fair pricing of the products, any significant increase of the salaries will not be practical in this highly competitive industry,” she said.

European Commission data shows the EU last year imported garments worth EUR9.2bn from Bangladesh, which represents 10% of the country's GDP. Bangladesh exports 60% of its garments to the EU.

“Profits have to be cut into if workers' rights in Bangladesh and other countries need to be protected,” said Ireland's Paul Murphy, a Socialist (European United Left – Nordic Green Left) member of the European Parliament (MEP).

Major retailers' commitment to compensate victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse came under criticism as Jahan noted that only nine of them had participated in a meeting organised by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, last week.

The ambassador confirmed to just-style that these were Primark, Matalan, Bon Marche, Store 21, Camaieu, El Corte Inglés, Joe Fresh, Mascot International, and KiK. 29 retailers had been invited, Jahan said.

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