Feds Commit $2.5 Million to Improve Building Safety--in Bangladesh

June 21, 2013 - 9:16 AM

Bangladesh Faulty Factories

In this April 25, 2013 file photo, Bangladeshi people gather as rescuers look for survivors and victims at the site of Rana Plaza building that collapsed a day before, in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh. The building collapse killed 1,129 people in the worst garment industry tragedy. (AP Photo/A.M.Ahad, File)

(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs has announced it will award a grant of up to $2.5 million to improve fire and general building in Bangladesh.

The grant announcement noted that the United States imports billions of dollars worth of goods from Bangladesh each year ($4.9 billion in 2011) with the “vast majority” coming from the “ready-made garment sector.”

It also noted the unsafe working conditions that plague that industry.

“Reports have shown that sub-standard buildings, poor emergency procedures, blocked fire exits, overcrowded workplaces, and inadequate inspection practices have resulted in a high death toll,” the announcement said.

The grant cited the April 2013 garment factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,000 people as well as a fire in November 2012 that killed at least 112 workers.

In November 2012, a fire at the Tazreen Factory killed at least 112 workers, drawing attention to extensive building code and broader health and safety violations throughout the RMG sector.

The grant will be used to “fund a technical assistance project(s) in Bangladesh to (1) improve government enforcement of fire and general building safety standards, and (2) increase worker organizations’ ability to effectively monitor for violations of fire and general building safety standards and seek abatement of such hazards.”

The Labor Department “intends to allocate approximately $1.5 million toward the achievement of Objective 1 and approximately $1,000,000 toward the achievement of Objective 2,” the grant abstract said.

CNSNews.com submitted questions via email to DOL about the grant.

Gloria Della, director of public affairs for DOL, initially said that she would respond to questions by email, but failed to do so, even after repeated attempts to get answers.

CNSNews.com asked whether the grant was a wise use of taxpayer funding and whether or not the project will benefit Americans in any way.

CNSNews.com also asked for more details about how the project would be implemented and how the agency would track its success.

ILAB’s stated that its mission is “to use all available international channels to improve working conditions, raise living standards, protect workers’ ability to exercise their rights, and address the workplace exploitation of children and other vulnerable populations.”

“Any commercial, international, educational, or non-profit organization(s), including any faith-based, community-based, or public international organization(s) (PIOs), capable of fulfilling the objectives identified in the Funding Opportunity Description is eligible to apply,” the announcement stated. “Organizations applying for this award must demonstrate a proven ability to manage complex projects in developing countries through actions that support these aims.”

The grant announcement was posted June 13 and is open to applicants until Aug. 2. The Labor Department anticipates one or more grant recipients. The funding period is expected to run through four years from the date the grant is awarded.