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'Expanding labor unions is now imperative in Bangladesh'
Nov '13
Expanding the role of organized labor in Bangladesh now is imperative, says a report “Worker Safety and Labor Rights in Bangladesh’s Garment Sector”, prepared for the use of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, by a committee led by New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez.
The report prepared by the committee’s majority staff examines the progress made on worker safety and labor rights in the Bangladesh garment industry since the Tazreen Fashions factory fire in November 2012 and the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April 2013.
It is based on a field visit by the committee’s majority staff to Bangladesh in August 2013, as well as extensive staff meetings with experts and stakeholders in Washington, D.C.
The report provides practical and timely recommendations for the U.S. Government and other stakeholders to safeguard and advance recent gains in labor rights for Bangladesh’s garment workers.
It states that workers are best placed to oversee their own safety, and their empowerment to do so is best achieved through independent, representative labor unions, but unfortunately, union presence is still nominal and collective bargaining is virtually non-existent in Bangladesh’s garment industry.
“Principally, a fundamental shift in attitudes toward collective bargaining and the right to organize is required among all stakeholders, especially factory owners, global brands, and the Government of Bangladesh,” the report says.
Stating that expanding the role of organized labor in Bangladesh now is imperative, the report suggests some recommendations for the US Government, apparel brands, Bangladesh Government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
“The United States Government should hold the Government of Bangladesh to the highest standards in implementing the action plan to reinstate U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits, especially provisions pertaining to labor law reform and protecting the freedom of association and the rights to organize and bargain collectively,” the report says in its recommendations.
It also suggests that the United States Government should increase funding for technical assistance programs in Bangladesh, such as those run by the AFL–CIO’s Solidarity Center, that improve workers’ capacity to organize and engage in collective bargaining.

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