Employment Injury Insurance
“All these disasters we have seen, with difficult compensation process and only limited options for compensation in Bangladesh labour law, show how much we need a national employment injury insurance scheme. Union federations and workers’ rights organizations in Bangladesh demand that the government pass legislation to make this possible and to make a national employment injury insurance scheme operational as soon as possible.”
Bangladeshi labour rights activist Kalpona Akter
What is the problem?
Everybody remembers the Rana Plaza collapse of 2013. After this tragedy, in which 1,134 workers died, a huge campaign started to make sure the workers received compensation. But almost 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.
Who needs to act?
There is a lot of support for a national employment injury insurance 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.
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 as soon as possible.
What can you do?
Although a lot of different actors support the establishment of an employment injury insurance scheme, the process towards it is very slow. It is therefore important to keep awareness about this issue alive. Share our infographic showing how this system works and that it is manageable on social media, tagging or mentioning brands and the government of Bangladesh. You can ask them what they are doing to #MakeEmploymentInjuryInsuranceAReality.
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 as soon as possible.
If you want to read more, the University of Sussex report “Workers' Right to Compensation after Garment Factory Disasters: Making Rights a Reality” (2018) provides an analysis of post facto compensation schemes and recommendations towards national employment injury insurance. The ILO World Social Protection Report 2017–19: Universal social protection to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals contains excellent pieces about employment injury insurance in Bangladesh. In April 2018 we published the memo Bridging the Gap in which we explained the urgent need to make haste with creating an employment injury insurance system. Lastly, the ILO has published its own explanation on how employment injury insurance in Bangladesh should build upon the Rana Plaza legacy.
The International Labour Organization remains committed to setting up such a system. Anne Drouin, Director of the ILO global employment injury programme stated in 2018: “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. (…). We need a sustainable self-financing system with tri-partite administration (…). 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.”
Also brands have indicated support for such a system. Spanish brand El Corte Ingles indicated in 2018 that the costs for would be marginal but that the benefits would be huge: “workers’ protection shouldn’t be discretionary, depending on where the accident takes place and whether that factory is producing or not for international brands.” German brand KiK indicated it is “completely supporting” the initiative.