The Human Rights Watch (HRW) made on Wednesday a number of recommendations to improve poor working condition in the country’s garment industry. The recommendations also included ensuring workers’ rights to form trade unions (TUs) and bargain collectively as well as creating an effective compliant mechanism. The HRW also suggested bringing about reform in labour law, increasing the number of government’s labour, fire, and building inspectors, improving their training facilities, establishing clear procedures for independent and credible inspections, and expanding factory inspections and labour rights protections to the Export Processing Zones (EPZs). The rights group released a report titled “Whoever Raises Their Head, Suffers the Most: Workers’ Rights in Bangladesh’s Garment Factories” in Dhaka just a day before the second anniversary of the tragic Rana Plaza incident. The report said the garment workers in Bangladesh face poor working condition and anti-union tactics by employers including assaults on union organizers. The 78-page report is based on interviews with more than 160 workers from 44 factories, most of which make garments for retail companies in North America, Europe and Australia. In the two years since the catastrophic Rana Plaza factory collapse on April 24, 2013 that claimed more than 1,100 workers lives, efforts are underway to make Bangladesh factories safer, the New York-based rights organisation said. But the government and western retailers can and should do more to enforce international labour standards to protect the workers’ rights, including their right to form unions and advocate for better condition. “If Bangladesh wants to avoid another Rana Plaza disaster, it needs to effectively enforce its labour law and ensure that garment workers enjoy the right to voice their concerns about safety and working conditions without fear of retaliation or dismissal,” said Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director at HRW. The rights body called on the Bangladesh government, factory owners, and western retailers to ensure respect for workers’ rights and end the unlawful targeting of labour leaders by factory owners and supervisors. While changes to some labour laws since the Rana Plaza incident, including provisions easing the union registration process, have facilitated registration of new unions, still fewer than 10 per cent of garment factories in Bangladesh have unions, the report said. Union leaders told the rights body that they continue to be targeted by factory management, risking abuse by both managers and supervisors, or thugs acting at their behest, it added. In some factories, workers leading efforts to form unions have been dismissed for their organising activities, but factory owners and management reject these allegations, the report claimed. A Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) official told HRW: “We have a bitter experience about unions. They believe they don’t need to work and they will get paid.” “The Bangladesh government and retailers need to ensure that factory owners and management start respecting workers’ rights, and the government must hold accountable those who abuse labour rights,” Mr Robertson said. HRW urged the Bangladesh government to carry out effective and impartial investigations into all workers’ allegations of mistreatment, including beatings, threats, and other abuses, and prosecute those responsible. Companies sourcing from Bangladesh factories should immediately take action to ensure that factory inspections conducted on their behalf or with their support are effective in ensuring that their supplier factories comply with the companies’ codes of conduct and the Bangladesh labour law, it said. The rapid growth of the ready-made garment (RMG) industry, as well as the failure of the Bangladesh government to enforce its building and labour regulations, resulted in worker abuse and many unsafe and poorly constructed factories, HRW opined.