The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) have initiated an independent inquiry to ascertain whether any worker was illegally terminated, in response to a complaint raised by the American Apparel and Footwear Federation (AAFA). The AAFA, the highest trade body of the US in garment and footwear business with representation of 1,000 brands having more than $400 bn retail sales in a year, sent letters to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BGMEA President Rubana Huq complaining about the termination of more than 1,000 garment workers and criminal charges against labour leaders.

“I have noted your concerns over the ‘criminal complaints against labour leaders’ and your demand of reinstatement of the workers who were allegedly fired during the violent protest over the minimum wage issues,” said Huq in a letter to the AAFA recently. She said she had no idea about the termination of the workers, but the BGMEA has taken the issue very seriously and has opened an inquiry to find out what has actually happened. “We are going to talk to factory authorities individually to have a clear understanding on the justification and legal compliance to the terminations,” Huq said.

She sought the list of the sacked workers so that the BGMEA can take up the issue with the factories. “If there is any case of illegal termination, we promise to look into them and take action accordingly.” “Let me also remind you that while illegal acts of any kind on the part of the employees are absolutely unacceptable, we must respect the rights of factories to protect their workers and property from vandalism.” In the letter, the new BGMEA chief also talked about the formation of the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), which will be governed by the BGMEA, the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, brands, and workers’ representatives from home and abroad. The RSC will take over the structure, operation and resources of the Accord, a European agency for factory inspection and remediation, as it phases out of Bangladesh and is envisaged to take over all safetyrelated matters in the garment industry within the legal framework of Bangladesh. Huq also sought cooperation from the AAFA on the price of garment items.

Bangladeshi garment makers received one of the lowest prices in the world last year due to a lack of value-added apparel items, lack of negotiation skills, and image crisis, according to the Office of the Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) in the US. “We are going to commission a study about floor pricing and wage-efficiency matrix. Please let us know if these are something of your interest and if you may provide us technical supports within your capacity,” Huq said.