The European Union has advised Bangladesh to pay “much more attention” to promoting factory safety and workers’ rights to consolidate its clothing market while acknowledging that “much progress” had been made after the Rana Plaza building collapse last year.
It also asked foreign companies working through their global supply chains “to pay more attention to responsible business practices” in the review of its “sustainable compact” rolled out a year ago, July 8 last year.
“With these two dynamics working in parallel and provided the commitment to better work is unchanged, the memory and dignity of the persons who perished in the Rana Plaza disaster will be upheld,” says a report the European Commission published Tuesday.
The report reviews the progress made and outlines the steps still needed.
The Commission says the review will be used as a basis for discussions “in a follow-up stocktaking exercise” in Brussels, to which key stakeholders will be invited.
European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht and Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor also issued a joint statement in launching the report.
“We welcome the serious commitment to deliver marked progress today. We commend those foreign retailers who did stay engaged in Bangladesh.
“As a matter of priority, we also urge the government of Bangladesh to complete the labour law reform, training and recruitment of inspectors and to create the conditions for meaningful freedom of association.
“Better labour conditions will support sustainable trade links with many markets, especially the European Union,” read the statement.
The Rana Plaza collapse in April last year killed more than 1100 people mostly garment workers and triggered worldwide concerns.
The EU is the largest market for Bangladesh where it enjoys duty-free access of all products.
The EU took action through the ‘Sustainability Compact’ to promote better labour rights and a more responsible supply chain management in garment manufacturing in Bangladesh.
The US suspended its market access that some of Bangladesh’s products enjoyed.
Washington also joined the EU’s compact package a month later.
US ambassador in Dhaka Dan Mozena said on the Compact’s anniversary Bangladesh and the world had no choice but to act to improve workers’ rights, safety, and working conditions in the country’s garment industry in the wake last year’s tragedy.
“We recognised that the task of improving working conditions and respect for workers’ rights in Bangladesh was daunting, difficult, and time-consuming, but we also believed it was achievable, especially if we worked together.
“On the one-year anniversary of the Compact, we still believe this is true,” he said in a statement.
The Sustainability Compact for Bangladesh builds on existing commitments with respect to labour rights, with focus on freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, occupational safety and health and factory safety, as well as support for and promotion of responsible business conduct.
In the review report, the EU noted that since then Bangladesh has brought amendments to the labour law to strengthen fundamental rights at work, such as certain aspects of freedom of association and collective bargaining.
“New trade unions have been established and intense training and capacity building of various stakeholders has taken place.
“Overall, workers are more aware of their rights and are more ready to assert them.
“In addition, common standards for structural building safety assessments have been agreed.
“Factory inspections are on-going with basic factory data already published and steps being taken to make information of inspections also publicly available in addition to the information of inspections published by private-sector initiatives.
“Some new male and female labour inspectors have been recruited and their training is ongoing.
“The responsible business conduct private initiatives launched in response to the Rana Plaza tragedy are operational and new companies are joining in”.
But it said “more must be done to ensure safety and health at work as well as freedom of association and collective bargaining must continue to improve”.
It said building inspection must continue and swift remedial measures taken to ensure safety and health of workers at work.
“The extension of the application of the national labour law to the export processing zones (EPZ) must begin, and implementing regulations need to be adopted swiftly.
“Effective steps need to be taken to ensure that new legislation is effectively implemented in practice and that monitoring mechanisms are put in place ensuring sustainability of improvements made.
“In addition, further amendments to the Bangladesh Labour Act (BLA) are necessary to ensure full compliance with core labour standards.
“It must become easier to establish a trade union and workers must be free to organise and exercise their right to collective bargaining,” the report also mentioned.
It also said that the government must address reports of denials to register trade unions, anti-trade union discrimination, intimidation and harassment.
“In this respect, Bangladesh’s Ready-Made-Garment (RMG) industry must also keep to its commitments to improve labour rights at the factory level,” the report mentioned.
Source: Bd news24