Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade, has stressed the need for implementing regulation on labour reforms in the garments sector of Bangladesh.
At an informal OECD Ministerial Meeting on Rana Plaza Aftermath in Paris, he also said Bangladesh's labour law still needs to address restrictions on trade union formation and membership, no later than in the next iteration of the labour law reform.
The speech was available on the website of European Commission.
Gucht said improvements in labour rights must be extended to the Export Processing Zones while the recruitment of labour inspectors needs to be accelerated, inspections need to proceed and their results published.
“All the enabling conditions must be in place, not only in law but in practice, for workers to organise into trade unions and make their voice heard at the factory level,” he said, adding, “Inspections must be followed by structural improvements to improve safety. Bangladeshi industry has a key role to play here.”
He also called upon the retailers and importers to play their role in improving garment sectors.
During the meeting, the trade commissioner appreciated the initiative taken after the tragic incident of Rana Plaza last year that claimed more than 1,000 lives.
He said on the eighth of July in 2013, Bangladesh, the European Union, and the International Labour Organisation made an agreement to improve labour rights and factory conditions in the garment industry. The United States joined later.
“Bangladesh has amended its labour law improving labour rights. It has also upgraded its system for inspecting factory safety and begun the recruitment process of hundreds of new inspectors,” the EU official said.
Inspections have started and their results are being made public. Many new unions have registered and workers are starting to organise, he added.
“In particular, they are making good progress on inspections of factories according to common standards and an operating manual for assessing building, fire and electrical safety,” he observed.