FTA Contributes to EU Debate on Bangladesh’s Sustainable Development

22-09-2015

Building on FTA’s long-term engagement in Bangladesh and the efforts of its members to improve the working conditions in the country’s Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector, FTA was invited to take part in a meeting at the European Parliament to exchange views on the progress made by the country and to assess the implementation of the Sustainability Compact. This agreement, launched in 2013 by the European Commission, brings together the Government of Bangladesh, the European Union (EU) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to improve labour rights, working conditions and factory safety in the RMG industry in Bangladesh.

The session welcomed the expert views of Ben Vanpeperstraete, Supply Chain Coordinator at Uni Global Union and IndustriALL Global Union; Shafiul Islam, President of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA); and Claire Courteille, Director of the Office of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Brussels.

During its contribution, FTA emphasised the engagement of companies and offered an overview of the actions taken to support concrete developments in Bangladesh. Speakers highlighted the improvements achieved since the establishment of the Sustainability Compact, such as registration of trade unions, creation of a welfare fund for workers, fulfillment of the Rana Plaza Compensation Fund, and most importantly the final publishing of the implementation rules of the labour law adopted in 2013.

However, experts stressed that more needs to be done to fix ongoing problems and shortcomings. The labor law still falls short in ensuring conformity with some ILO core conventions and violence against trade unions persists. Debating the possibility of introducing ‘consequences’ for not achieving enough progress, Members of the Parliament underlined the progress observed during recent trips as well as the openness to dialogue, stressing the need to remain in a close and exigent partnership rather than setting penalties.

The biggest challenge, as pointed out by all participants, is to keep all stakeholders engaged and to continue achieving progress on the ground. The Accord and Alliance – established to support the improvement of workplace safety in Bangladesh's garment factories – are five-year agreements that will end by 2018. With this deadline on the horizon, it is essential to explore if and how the country will be able to take over these responsibilities and what needs to be done for this to happen. To address this and other relevant issues, FTA Director General, Christian Ewert, will meet with relevant stakeholders in Dhaka in October, where FTA will also hold a round table on 12 October to discuss capacity building activities in the RMG and leather industry.

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