Sustainable Trade: EU Report is pressing Bangladeshi Authorities to improve Labour Conditions in Garment Sector
The European Commission released its third annual report on progress achieved in the Bangladeshi garment sector through the Sustainability Compact for Bangladesh – an international response to the 2013 tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex
Since the launch of the initiative, the Compact has contributed to tangible improvements in workplace safety. The Compact played also a key role in opening up and supporting a dialogue on working conditions for employees of Bangladeshi garment sector with trade unions, employers, buyers and NGOs.
However, respect of workers’ rights remains a challenging area, with a particular urgency as regards freedom of association. While some improvements can be noted, sizeable efforts still need to be made to ensure that real change takes place and is sustained over the long term, according to the report.
As regards improvement of legislative nature, the EU expects in particular further development of labour-related legislation and enforcement of the existing rules, in full compliance with the fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, as defined by the International Labour Organisation (‘ILO’). Those rights should be granted to all workers without exception, including to those in the export processing zones. The EU draws in particular attention to the need for more effective investigation and prosecution of alleged cases of anti-union discrimination and unfair labour practices. Room for improvement also exists as regards registration procedures for new workers’ unions, which should ensure expeditious and non-arbitrary processing of applications.
On administrative aspects, the report points at the need for a new strategy for safety inspections and remediation, ensuring effective coordination between key Bangladeshi regulators with competences in that area. The EU also calls for further reinforcement of administrative capacities through recruitment and training of inspectors and for a full transparency as regards the outcomes of factory inspections.
Further to that, the EU report underlines the need for continuous education, training and capacity building on issues such as labour rights, and occupational safety and health.
The report, together with recommendations addressed to the authorities of Bangladesh, also formulates the wish for a strong longer-term engagement of international private companies involved in business operations in Bangladesh, which have been key in bringing progress on the ground over the last years.