Mostafiz Uddin, CEO and founder of the trade show Bangladesh Denim Expo, has recently organized Bangladesh Denim Academy, the first of a series of seminars and activities aimed at informing insiders on denim. Guest of this first initiative was denim expert Amy Leverton, who presented denim trends for fall/winter 2017/2018.
Sportswear International asked Uddin how the Bangladesh denim and garment manufacturing industry are developing, how its workers’ conditions are changing and how Uddin’s activities are helping this industry progressing.
Mr. Uddin, your activities are part of a wider plan to nurture talents of the Bangladesh denim industry and help your country further develop. How is this proceeding? According to reports published by Fairtrade International, the Bangladesh garment industry used to –and continues– to employ young kids in their factories. Most workers - about 80% - in manufacturing companies are women. They are treated almost like slaves and constantly threatened by their superiors. How can all this be improved and changed?
It would not be an exaggeration if I said that the garment industry in Bangladesh has as good conditions as the best garment producing countries of the world. I would not say that there is no “bad apple” in the industry nowadays but despite the industry started its activities in an unplanned way, it is now following much clearer and fairer plans than in the past. Especially after the tragic incidents that have happened in recent years, our industry has gone under the magnifying glass of all stakeholders and there has been a paradigm shift in the mindsets of the entrepreneurs who understood that to remain in the business they have to be compliant as well as competitive.
The price of apparel is a determining factor in providing better facilities to workers. So, if the manufacturers can produce high value items they could give better facilities to their workers. Here lies the importance of training and education. My recently launched initiative Bangladesh Demin Academy is trying to contribute in this area.
I would not say that there is no “bad apple” in the industry nowadays but despite the industry started its activities in an unplanned way, it is now following much clearer and fairer plans than in the past
Generally workers’ salaries in Bangladesh are the lowest in the world, about 68USD per month; many have to retire at the age of 45 because working rhythms are highly exhausting, though workers have no rights to get wages for retirement. What about the denim and textile industry? Do they guarantee better conditions of their workers?
The USD68 minimum wage is legally fixed for the entry level workers who do not have any knowledge even about employing sewing machines. When workers become skilled their salaries grow to USD100-USD150. Medium and big denim units in Bangladesh are giving benefits to their workers which are higher than the minimum ones guaranteed by the labor laws.
After the disaster of Rana Plaza in 2013, what was done and what can be further done in order to guarantee safer work conditions?
After the Rana Plaza incident until today no other lives were lost in the Bangladesh garment industry due to any accident. This means that working places’ safety has improved significantly in the country. Platforms of the European buyers Accord, US buyers' Alliance, Bangladesh Government, ILO (International Labour Organization) and the National Action Plan already inspected all the garment factories of Bangladesh. These inspections only found less than 2% of the factories vulnerable which have immediately been shut down. The factories are also carrying out remediation where necessary as found out from inspection reports. Moreover, all inspection reports are available on a publicly accessible website which is unique in the world.
According to your experience after running Bangladesh Denim Expo, which you founded at the end of 2014, do you think that such events can help entrepreneurs learn, share experiences and start behaving more fairly toward their employees and the environment?
Yes, Bangladesh Denim Expo not only is a one-stop sourcing platform for all kinds of denim items but it's also a platform where entrepreneurs, buyers and denim professionals can reciprocally share ideas and exchange views. Moreover, seminars on contemporary industry issues are regularly organized in every edition. All of these initiatives are obviously playing a key role in spreading good practices -be them social, environmental and innovation issues.
Platforms of the European buyers Accord, US buyers' Alliance, Bangladesh Government, ILO (International Labour Organization) and the National Action Plan already inspected all the garment factories of Bangladesh. These inspections only found less than 2% of the factories vulnerable which have immediately been shut down.
If you look at the general state of the Bangladesh denim and textile industry, how many companies have started behaving more fairly in the past times? By when do you think that the general level could be raised more significantly?
The working environment in the garment factories is good now. However, there is still room for improvement. For this the collaboration between buyers and manufacturers is really important. Ensuring responsible sourcing in all steps of the supply chain can help establishing always more advanced and fair practices in our country’s and in the global apparel industry. My initiatives aim to support all this.