Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sustainability Compact review sets new priorities for Bangladesh apparel sector

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-05-19 00:29:09 BdST


The third review meeting of the ‘Sustainability Compact’ has ended in Dhaka with all sides agreeing on a number of new priorities for Bangladesh’s readymade clothing sector.

The meeting on Thursday in Dhaka assessed the progress made since the last meeting on Jan 28 last year and set priorities for the coming years.

All partners issued a ‘Joint Conclusions’ which would be served as “a set of commitments and priorities” for ensuing respect for labour rights, occupational safety and health and the promotion of responsible business conduct in the ready-made garment sector.

The Bangladesh government, the European Union, the United States, Canada and the ILO are the partners of the Compact, which was rolled out in 2013 after the Rana Paza building collapse.

“The Joint Conclusions is all of what we discussed and agreed,” Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said at the closing.

European Commission’s Head of Unit for Trade and Sustainable Development Madelaine Tuininga said they remained committed to engage with Bangladesh.

Labour rights, workplace safety and responsible business conduct are the three pillars of the Compact.

The ‘Joint Conclusions’ recognised several areas of the Compact. These include:

Recent increase in trade union registrations in Dhaka division, work towards the development of standard operating procedures or SOPs to better process applications for trade union registration, strengthening of the inspection division and formation of Remediation Coordination Cell.

They also noted the introduction of the concept of workplace cooperation and building a culture of occupational safety and health.

For future actions, they noted that “adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination is amongst the main element of a conducive and enabling environment for freedom of association and collective bargaining”.

They also recognised the urgent need “to further address acts of discrimination against trade unionists, and to effectively investigate and prosecute unfair labour practices in a timely and transparent manner”.

“As part of this effort, the partners underline the importance of upgrading the Department of Labour with staff and resources,” according to the joint conclusions.

They took note of the recent “distressing” events in Ashulia and renewed the call on all the stakeholders to act in accordance with the decisions of the tripartite agreement of Feb 23.

They stressed that “criminal complaints pending against the concerned partners need to be reviewed urgently to ensure due process of the law”.

The formation of the Tripartite Consultative Council or TCC for RMG sector was welcomed as an advisory body for industrial relations between the workers and the factory owners.

The ‘Joint Conclusions’ recognised the urgent need to begin inclusive consultations towards amendment of the Bangladesh Labour Act and associated regulations to address the conclusions and recommendations of the ILO’s supervisory bodies.

The draft EPZ labour law has been withdrawn for further review and the TCC has been tasked with proposing reforms to the BLA.

They reaffirmed the need to ensure that workers in the EPZs enjoy freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. They also recognised the urgent need for promoting responsible business conduct.

Brands and retailers were encouraged to a uniform code of conduct for factory audits in Bangladesh.

The significant contributions of the Accord and the Alliance to ensure factory safety in RMG factories and their commitment to sustainable sourcing from Bangladesh were recognised.

The ‘Joint Conclusions’ also encouraged private initiatives to remain engaged with the government and to renew their commitments to working for safer RMG factories in the coming years.

They will continue to review and assess progress together in the coming years.