Make Employment Injury Insurance a Reality

Everybody remembers the Rana Plaza collapse of 2013. After 1,134 workers died a huge campaign started to make sure the workers received compensation. But no one has heard of the Aswad fire, which happened only half a year later. The families of the 13 workers that died are still waiting for compensation. 

Workers in Bangladesh who are injured or killed in factory incidents that do not have the spectacular scale that made it newsworthy for an international public, are often left without any financial compensation. For the families involved, these deaths are no less of a tragedy. Their right to full and fair compensation should not depend on the size of the factory incident, or the image of the brands involved. The establishment of an employment injury insurance scheme in Bangladesh is the only way to ensure that workers injured at the job or the families of workers killed at work receive the compensation they are entitled to.

Around 500 workers were injured and several dozens killed in the Bangladeshi garment supply chain since Rana Plaza. A “bridging solution” could establish a procedure for accepting and processing existing and future workplace injury claims in line with international standards, and delivering loss of income payments. This could be a practical stepping stone towards the implementation of a permanent employment injury insurance scheme.

There is a lot of support for such a system. Brands, workers and their representatives, factory owners; all could profit from such a system that is affordable and brings certainty to all of them. What is needed now, is for the government of Bangladesh to stick to its commitment of 2015 to establish an employment injury insurance system and start making legislation.

Broad support for an Employment Injury Insurance scheme

Brands sourcing from Bangladesh

“Bangladesh is one of the few countries in the world without an employment injury insurance system. (…) Accidents happen every day in factories all around the world. And they keep happening in Bangladesh as in any other place in the world. But workers’ protection shouldn’t be discretionary, depending on where the accident takes place and whether that factory is producing or not for international brands. (...) The initial estimations show that the EII impact on labour costs would be well below one percent. In the understanding that when translated into the costs of goods the costs would be absolutely marginal. (…) That is how it works in any other country. Those marginal costs are factored in the costs of goods that buyers pay to their suppliers. (…) We urge employers and the government of Bangladesh to develop a road map for defining the stages and time line of a rights-based EII implementation, building on the existing workers’ welfare fund but based on ILO standards with the understanding that international buyers will stand behind such an approach.” El Corte Ingles – Spain

“We are completely supporting the ILO initiative [for an employment injury insurance scheme] (...), because we believe that this is (…) the only way to solve a lot of uncertainties in the sector.” KiK - Germany

Government representatives from around the world

“Introducing an employment [injury] insurance scheme (...) [is] a crucial next step for Bangladesh and we hope to see time-bound commitments here soon.” - European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malström

[Employment injury insurance] is a very basic element of any labor law regime. (...) I am still a bit surprised that it is still not there in every country, (…) especially with what happened in Bangladesh I would encourage the government and all actors to setting this up as soon as possible.” - Pierre Bouchard, Director for Employment and Social Development, Canada

International organizations

“When (...) Rana Plaza happened, (…) it was a lot of pain to raise these 30 million dollars without a system and without the rules of the game being in place beforehand. (…) In 2015, (...) there was a letter of intent to put into motion the employment injury insurance national scheme. (…). We need a sustainable self-financing system with tri-partite administration (…). The state would be fulfilling its responsibility of care and protection. (...) There should be periodical payments to victims when they lose their wages. There should be medical care which is timely and of quality. There should be rehabilitation but most important is that this adequacy is defined by the Bangladesh national counterparts themselves through national social dialogue.” - Anne Drouin, Director of the ILO global employment injury programme

The ILO explains: making employment injury insurance a reality

EII quoteBackground

The right to loss of income payments and medical care following a workplace injury has long been internationally recognized. ILO Convention 121 stipulates the standards for employment injury insurance, which should be delivered by the state and provide a lifetime pension to a worker or his or her family. Bangladesh has still not ratified the convention, but in 2015 the government of Bangladesh has committed to establishing a national employment injury insurance scheme according to its standards. Such a system is affordable and enhances the reputation of Bangladesh. There is however still significant work to do if Bangladesh is to develop the necessary institutional and legal mechanisms by 2020 as promised. It is imperative that legislation to put such a system in place is tabled as soon as possible and that the implementation of a system is started before the next (fifth) compact review next year.

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