It is disheartening that the international community is looking at labour issues only from the perspective of labour unions. No one is openly acknowledging the massive reform movement which has gripped the garment industry since the unfortunate Rana Plaza incident. Which other country has agencies like Accord and Alliance monitoring their factories, and of course, more than 200 Green factories in the making!
No one is denying that there is room for improvement and labour issues need to be handled with clear understanding of what is best for the workers… But what the industry is really worried about is the role of labour unions in painting a negative picture of the ground realities at international forums.
During a recent trip to Dhaka, I came to know about several companies which are now moving beyond basic compliance norms to make their workers’ life more meaningful. Factories are putting in efforts, and money is being invested in all facilities to make the workplace a happy and comfortable space. Even workers at individual factories admit that things have really changed! Yet…
While improvements are happening rapidly, the ILO has again reminded Bangladesh to align the rules of union registration in the garment sector with its Convention 87 that addresses the matter of freedom of association by workers. The reminder comes in the wake of discussion that followed at the 106th International Labour Conference, the ILO’s annual convention held in Geneva between June 5 and 16.
The ILO has also called upon the Government to ensure that the Bangladesh Labour Act, the Bangladesh Labour Rules and the EPZ Labour Act are all brought into conformity with the provisions of the convention regarding freedom of association. Showing its support to the ILO requirements, the European Union has asked for proof of tangible progress on labour rights to avoid temporarily losing the GSP benefit that allows the country duty-free export to the 28-nation economic bloc. Currently, 60 per cent of Bangladesh’s total garment export earnings in a year are coming from business with the EU.
Initially the EU had set an August 2017 deadline for presenting the draft on revised Bangladesh Labour Act (BLA) and the Export Processing Zones (EPZ) law to the ILO Committee of Experts on Application of Conventions and Recommendation for its adoption before the International Labour Conference (ILC) to be held in June 2018. However, since the representatives of workers and owners to the Tripartite Technical Committee will be able to submit their proposals for the proposed amendment to the Labour Law to the ministry only by July 31, the Government has promised to produce the draft of the amended labour law and EPZ labour laws before an ILO committee by the end of this November.
The responsiveness of the Bangladesh Government and the industry to follow international norms and ensure that no reason remains for loss of business is praiseworthy. An exclusive one-on-one with the BGMEA President, Md. Siddiqur Rahman, gives me confidence that the industry is in safe hands. The goals are very clear and the path to achieve the goals is well-defined. I am sure my readers will enjoy the excerpts from the interview published in this issue.
What is most positive is the confidence that the buyers have on the capabilities of the industry and through our this month’s story on –‘Preferred Supplier’– you may catch-up with all the factors that buyers consider as essential when aligning with vendors.