The safety of garment workers and their rights are intertwined, according to Michael J. Delaney, United States Trade Representative (USTR) for South and Central Asia.
Mr. Delaney, who was on a visit to Bangladesh for the first round of Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (TICFA) Council meeting, said the enormous growth of the readymade garment sector holds great promise and provides several opportunities for economic development of Bangladesh.
However, Mr. Delaney said, the extraordinary growth of the garment sector in Bangladesh has come with a cost—the lives lost owing to shortcomings in fire and building safety and workers not being able to demand certain basic protections.
So, there is a need to ensure that the Bangladesh garment factories are safe and workers are able to exercise their fundamental rights. “We believe worker safety and worker rights are intertwined. When workers are able to exercise their rights to associate, form unions and collectively bargain, they are able to voice their interests effectively and collectively,” said Mr. Delaney at a meeting jointly organized by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) and American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham).
Mr. Delaney also said that factory owners or investors should be responsible to uphold the laws of Bangladesh. He added that there needs to be some legal reforms to bring Bangladesh’s law into conformity with basic internationals standards.
President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Atiqul Islam said that about 5 million people are working in the garment industry in Bangladesh and most of them are women.
He informed that BGMEA is showing zero tolerance in terms of abiding by building code, and demanded duty and quota free access in the US market.