The International Labour Organization (ILO) has signed new agreements with the Netherlands, the UK and Canada aimed at improving conditions in Bangladeshi garment industry.
The ILO, in partnership with the Governments of the Netherlands, the UK and Canada have launched an innovative programme, to boost the efforts of the Government of Bangladesh and a range of national and international actors in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector, an ILO press release said.
The agreement, signed last week in New York, is aimed at helping nearly three and half million Bangladesh garment workers, recently beset by industrial accidents and a staggering loss of life, in getting essential support to improve working conditions, strengthen labour inspection and upgrade building and fire safety at their workplaces.
“The rapid growth in Bangladesh’s garment industry has provided vital jobs to women and men and is helping to pull them and their families out of poverty. However, there is an urgent need for decisive and collaborative action to make decent work a reality. This programme will improve conditions of work, especially safety, and help generate sustainable economic growth and investment,” stated the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder in the press release.
The Netherlands, as the current co-chair of the donor coordination group in Bangladesh, strongly supports the adherence to international labour standards on workplace safety and protection of workers’ rights. This vision is also backed by business in the Netherlands and promoted through firms’ supply chains, the release said.
“Never in the history of the garment sector have we seen such an opportunity for improvement of labour conditions. With the signing of this agreement, the Netherlands with the ILO and our fellow donors will empower millions of workers in Bangladesh to live healthy and decent lives,” Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation for the Netherlands, Lilianne Ploumen, said.
The ILO programme is an important part of the on-going and wider framework and cooperation, and is being supported by the Bangladesh authorities as well as the Bangladeshi employers’ organizations and unions. The programme will train workers, supervisors and managers in the RMG sector to improve their capacity to ensure workplace safety including the prevention of violence.
The new multi-year programme by the ILO will focus on supporting the Bangladeshi National Action Plan for Fire and Building Safety developed in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse in April of this year. The National Action Plan calls for an assessment of all active export-oriented, RMG factories in Bangladesh to be completed by 31 December 2013.
The National Action Plan is supported by other parallel initiatives focused on the RMG sector in Bangladesh, namely the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh which was signed by over 80 leading clothing brands and retailers, and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a binding five-year undertaking by North American apparel companies and retailers to improve safety in more than 500 factories.