The visiting socialist members of the European Parliament have praised Bangladesh’s readymade garment industry’s progress in ensuring factory safety and said they would take back “very positive” notes to Brussels.
Arne Lietz, Linda McAvan, Norbert Neuser and Agnes Jongerius met the press on Wednesday, concluding their three-day visit when they interacted with the Speaker of the Parliament, minister for commerce, state minister for labour, garment leaders and also called on the prime minister.
“To me, the image of Bangladesh was not very good before this visit,” Norbert Neuser from Germany said. “Now I think I have to change in a strong way. We saw a lot of excellent progress. When I am back, I can tell good stories. You have done a great job”.
The visit took place ahead of the May 18 review of the sustainability compact which was rolled out after the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2O13, and the June annual International Labour Conference of the ILO.
“We found very positive development, and we’ll go back to Brussels with a note that you have done a lot in the ensuing safety. Accord has been very successful. We’ll take positive samples from Bangladesh back to Brussels,” Lietz, who led the delegation, said.
He said the garment sector, which is the focus of their visit, has “played an important role in that growth and we can see that there have been improvements in both buildings and workplace safety since the Rana Plaza tragedy four years ago”.
The European Union is currently examining the whole issue of “fairness” in the garment supply chains worldwide.
In a written statement he said, the Accord and Alliance are encouraging examples of what can be achieved when companies, governments and workers pool efforts to improve standards.
“The EU is a strong partner of Bangladesh, as reflected in our robust trade relations underpinned by the ‘Everything but Arms’ or EBA market access regime. The EBA has among its core values respect for human rights and labour rights.
“In this context, we note that Bangladesh was mentioned under a special paragraph in the last ILO conference in Geneva June last year”.
The ILO in that paragraph called on Bangladesh to address four issues which are: “full alignment of respectively, the EPZ draft law, the Bangladesh Labour Act, with the UN core labour convention modalities for establishing trade unions and the right of trade unions to operate freely”.
“It is important that these issues are addressed before the May 18 review and the June annual ILO conference,” he said, adding that they raised the matter during their meetings with the interlocutors in Dhaka.
“We felt readiness and good will from all parties to engage on this issue and are hopeful that this will translate into concrete progress before the May review of the sustainability compact in Dhaka and the Geneva ILO conference in min-June”.
The MEPs said as members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, their engagement with Bangladesh, as with other countries, is guided by core values, where respect for human rights and labour rights, in particular, freedom of association and collective bargaining “rank high”.
“That is why the full implementation of the sustainability compact is so important in our view”.
EU Head of the Delegation in Dhaka Ambassador Pierre Mayaudon was also present at the press briefing.