US buyers asked to work on factory safety

The US State Department has ‘strongly’ urged American buyers in Bangladesh’s garment industry ‘to coordinate efforts’ with each other and the country’s government, industry leaders, civil society and labour groups on factory safety and fire initiatives.

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It also urged them to help pay for independent safety and fire inspectors.

The State Department, the Department of Labor and the Office of the US Trade Representative on Wednesday convened a conference call with US buyers in Bangladesh’s garment industry.

They discussed US government engagement to improve workers’ rights and working conditions in Bangladesh and reviewed how the private sector can assist in these vital ongoing efforts.

The conference has been called in the wake of the Savar building collapse that so far killed more than 900 people and wounded thousands.

They encouraged the buyers to communicate their concerns about labour conditions to the BGMEA and the Bangladeshi government, and to urge immediate passage of the labour law amendments to lay the basis for the establishment of an International Labor Organization and International Finance Corporation Better Work Program.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake and Special Representative for International Labor Affairs Barbara Shailor represented the State Department.

They noted that the tragedy at Rana Plaza once again “underscores the urgent need for government, owners, buyers, and labor organisations to work together to improve labor safety and the lives of working people in Bangladesh”.

“Both the United States and Bangladesh have a shared interest in ensuring that the growth of Bangladesh’s export sector does not come at the expense of safe and healthy working conditions or fundamental labor rights,” according to a statement posted at the State Department’s website.

The Savar building collapse drew widespread reactions from home and international communities.

A United Nations expert group on Wednesday urged global clothing brands to work with Bangladesh, international organisations and civil society to improve working conditions in the country’s garment sector

The European Union delegation to Bangladesh said after the incident that business as usual would not work.

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