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Annual Report 2013

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Safety and Rights Society (SRS)

Year-2013 (Jan-Dec)

1.    Introduction

Since November 2009, after being registered as a society with the Joint Stock Company under Societies Registration Act 1860 (reg no. 10280) Safety and Rights Society has been conducting activities in the area of workers’ rights with a slogan of “Promoting Safety, Enforcing Rights”. In September 2011, it received the registration of NGO Affairs Bureau of Bangladesh under the Foreign Donation Regulation Ordinance 1978 (reg no. 2659.Before forgetting the trauma of Tazreen Fasion, another dreadful killing in the garment sector took place on 24th April 2013, when the Rana Plaza collapsed with five garment factories and hundreds of shops that ultimately took 1134 lives of which maximum were women. Safety and Rights was deeply shocked and tried to help the victims with its capacity.

2.    Projects implemented in 2013

2.1. Title: Assistance for Rana Plaza victims
Project Period: Not applicable
Development partner: Jamil Sarwar Trust
Geographical location: Savar, Dhaka
Total Budget: BDT-100,000/-
Total Expenditure: BDT- 42,420/-
Rights holders: Victims of Rana Plaza disaster
Present Status: Supporting the victims when needed

2.2. Title: Bangladesh Worker Safety Programme

Project Period: Six Months (01 January 2013 to 30 June 2013)
Development partner: Anti Trust
Geographical location: All over Bangladesh
Total Budget: BDT- 347,428/-
Total Expenditure: BDT- 337,107/-
Beneficiaries: Victims of workplace accidents (This project was a supporting project)
Present Status: Successfully accomplished

2.3. Title: Workplace Safety, Compensation and Accountability

Project Period: Three years (01 January 2013 to 31 December 2015)
Development partner: Diakonia
Geographical location: All over Bangladesh
Total Budget for 2013: BDT- 3,208,728/-
Total Expenditure: BDT - 2,985,812/-
Beneficiaries: Victims of workplace accidents, construction workers and employers and workers in general
Present Status: On going

3.    Brief of the achievements of each project

3.1   Assistance for Rana Plaza victims: Supported by Jamil Sarwar Trust

3.1.1. Summary of major outcomes

SRS have visited different hospitals like Pangu, Sohrawardi, Dhaka Medical, Enam Medical etc and within the local community where the victim’s families were residing to have the idea about what can be done now for victims by SRS. Analysing the situation, it decided to support the victims who were hospitalized in Pangu Hospital for a long-term treatment as they have lost their limbs and bones. By utilizing the money received from Jamil Sarwar Trust, we provided required medicine/agents need for treatment, 7 special beds to protect bed-sore and also cash to 10 victims.

3.2   Bangladesh Worker Safety Programme (Jan-Jun): Supported by Anti Trust

3.2.1. Summary of major outcomes

This project was a supplementary project to the main project funded by Diakonia. This project has borne mainly the administrative cost such as house rent, utilities, cleaning charge, partial salary of Assistant legal officer and Executive Director.

3.3.  Workplace Safety, Compensation and Accountability (Jun-Dec): Supported by Diakonia

3.3.1. Summary of major outcomes

Collected information through newspaper monitoring has different kinds of use. More than 10 print media like Prothom Alo, Ittefaq, Daily Star, New Age, New Nation, Janakantha, Sangbad etc and 3 electronics medias like Channel I, Independent Television, ATN News have published collected data.

The Department for Inspection of Factories and Establishment (DIFE) have taken initiative to inspect more than 100 incident places following the incident-list we have provided them to take legal measures according to Bangladesh Labour Act 2006.

SRS and BRAC have jointly investigated 138 incidents. During investigation workers, employers and local communities were interviewed and dependent families were contacted further for more details and to get their consent about legal action. As a result they have learnt about the legal proceedings, workers rights and legal obligation regarding workers compensation and workplace safety.

During the year, 16 dependent families were provided legal assistance to file suit before the Learned Labour Court. They were aware about their rights in light of Bangladesh Labour Act 2006. 4 families have realised compensation of which 3 through labour courts and 1 through mediation by us. Realising amount was BDT-429,250.

The participants (110 of which more than 20% were female) of the seminar and their fellow mates were aware about building construction safety. To ensure safety of construction sector, the seminar proposed an individual “Law Enforcement Agency” for implementing BNBC, which influenced the Public Works Department under the Ministry of Housing and Public Works to raise this issue in their meeting and discussion with concerned authority.

We have Printed 750 copies of Guidance on “Construction Workplace Safety Health and welfare”. The guidance was launched on 13 June 2013, by Advocate Abdul Mannan Khan MP, the State Minister of Ministry of Housing and Public Works. Representatives of developers’ company have appreciated the publication on construction safety and they showed their interest to republish it by their own cost according to their needs. Public Works Department (PWD) also expressed the need of 1200 copies of this guidance.

70 workers (34 female) acquired knowledge about workplace health and safety. They are protecting themselves from being victims during work at height, at septic tank and electrical work. The trained workers are devoted to assist their colleagues to use safety kits during work. As a result, gradually the use of safety gears will increase and workplace accident will decrease. In addition, 25 representatives of 13 Developers Company were trained about health and safety of construction sites.

213 workers (50 female) acquired knowledge about workers rights and labour law. They are more equipped in running their unions. Bargaining capacity of trade has improved.

News, reports, articles on workers’ rights including compensation have increased. Awareness among the media personnel has increased. Media people, workers organisation, international organisation, government officials have been contacting us for information on workplace deaths and injuries. Gradually it is becoming the important reliable source of information which may ultimately assist in establishing decent workplace.

The government has amended the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 (BLA 2006). Significant changes have been made in the labour law but in respect of compensation amount, it remains the same.

We have developed 4 policies such as 1. Gender Policy, 2. Accountability Framework, 3. Open information policy, and 4. Complain and Response Policy, which will increase the credibility of the organisation.

Activities and achievement beyond the Action Plan

Assisting the victims of Rana Plaza Collapse: In addition to the planned activities SRS has carried out some other activities of which assisting the victims of Rana Plaza Collapse is remarkable. Immediately after the incident, SRS has visited the area and supported the rescue team by providing water, air freshner cans, heavy hand-gloves, masks etc.

Data collection: SRS started collecting data re the injured and deaths from the first visit. But immediately SRS realized that it would not be possible for SRS alone to collect comprehensive data. And then we contacted ADESH, BLAST, Sheba, Action Aid, PSTC etc for their support in this regard. Finally, Action Aid decided to incorporate one member from SRS to their RNA (Rapid Need Assessment) team. That RNA team started collecting data on 30th April and is continuing.

Application for Labour Welfare Fund: From the very beginning of its establishment, SRS have been endeavouring to obtain support for the workplace victims from the Labour Welfare Fund of the government. This time SRS have filled in 53 application forms in favour of the victims and have applied for welfare fund to the Director General of Bangladesh Labour Welfare Foundation. When contacted with the ministry they informed that they are proceeding the applications to provide financial assistance to the victims.

Insurance for construction workers: one of the main focuses of SRS is to ensure compensation rights of workers. To attain this it has been influencing workers representative organisations such as construction unions that they should have insurance policy for the security of their families. On 18 November 2013, the government has signed a MoU with two construction unions named Imarat Nirman Sromik Union of Bangaldesh (INSUB) and Bangladesh Nirman Sromik League (BNSL). In this MoU, the government has agreed to pay 66 percent of insurance premium up to next five years. The insurance coverage is BDT-200,000 (two hundred thousand) in the case of deaths and permanent disability.

4.    Problems, challenges and lessons learnt during the year

All through the year hartals (strike), blockades were very common programme called by political parties and it was very unpredictable. Due to blockades we could not organise a seminar in Rajshahi. Though, several times we had changed our plan but finally the entire plan became worthless. Except the seminar, we were able to carry out all other activities.

It was a great challenge for SRS to carry out additional 10 one day training and 3 seminars within very short notice given by Diakonia on September 2013. Sincerity and commitment of staffs made SRS succeed in carrying out those activities.

Involvement of Minister, employers’ representatives, labour court’s chairman and the government officials in the project activities was another challenge. Although, we were able to involve the Chairman of Chittagong and Rajshahi Labour Court but after giving all efforts we failed to involve the Chairman of Khulna Labour Court.

Rana Plaza collapse (a nine-storey building with five garment factories) was a great lesson that we have learnt during the implementation of the project. It taught us that only legal support in realising compensation or awareness raising on safety issue is not enough to work for the improvement of workers’ health and safety conditions. We should have a very reasonable ‘Contingency Plan’ with some allocation of fund to meet the emergency needs of the workplace victims.

Involvement of the government high officials in the project implementation was a challenge but it gave us a lesson that if we could engage them it might make easy in realising compensation in favour of workplace victims.

We had to spend huge time to convince the dependent families or injured workers to go for legal action in realising compensation as: they had no clear idea about compensation rights, they were scared to go against the employers, negative perception about court practice, their believes in religion custom like no one is responsible for anyone death, they considered the total process was tiresome etc.

Sometime we faced hurdle in collecting information about workplace deaths from police station- one of the very important sources of information regarding workplace deaths.

5.    Recommendations and conclusion

SRS has been facing hurdle to get involved Ministers and high officials in its programme. It can be resolved through sincere cooperation by the members of SRS.

Since, SRS is a comparatively newly establish organisation, its documentation and website maintenance is important, which requires an individual personnel who is skilled in this area. We believe, considering the needs, GB will agree to allocate some fund so that we can hire a skilled person in this regard.

We feel the importance of having a clear contingency plan with budget allocation. At present, we have a contingency plan but have no budget for that. So, we are seeking contingency fund to face the future challenges like Tazreen or Rana Plaza or any other natural disaster.

Sekender Ali Mina
Executive Director
Safety and Rights Society
14/23 Babor Road (4th floor), Block-B
Mohammadpur, Dhaka
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Cellphone: 01711-780017, 01193-200207
Telephone: 02 9119903-04