The European Union (EU) is still concerned over worker safety in the garment sector, despite measures taken to strengthen factory standards, the head of a European delegation said yesterday.
“The people in Europe who have elected us are really concerned over the safety in the garment sector in Bangladesh,”
Jean Lambert, chair of the delegation for relations with South Asia of European Parliament (EP), told reporters after a meeting with Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed at the latter's secretariat office in Dhaka.
“We mainly discussed issues relating to the garment sector at the meeting. We talked about the progress made by Bangladesh in strengthening safety measures for the workers,” Lambert said.
Bangladesh also pledged to strengthen safety standards in the Global Sustainability Compact, the agreement the country signed in Geneva involving International Labour Organisation on July 8 last year, she said.
The members of EP are on a two-day visit to Bangladesh to observe progress made by Bangladesh in workers' safety, she added.
Lambert said the EP members will put pressure on the European retailers that are yet to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh to sign it.
So far, a total of 150 retailers and brands, mainly European, signed the five-year legally binding Accord.
After two industrial disasters in the country—the Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse—IndustriALL Global Union, the federation of global trade unions, initiated the Accord to ensure safety in the factories through rigorous factory inspections over the next five years.
“We will speak on the outcome of the visit later,” Lambert said at the briefing.
The commerce minister said the government will complete the recruitment of 200 factory inspectors by March 31.
“Of the 200 inspectors, 67 will be first-class officers and the rest will be recruited in different categories,” Ahmed said.
The labour and employment ministry is scheduled to inaugurate the workers' database, a requirement of the agreement, on March 27.
“The export processing zone laws are also being amended, as it is also a requirement for factory safety,” the minister said.
The minister said China is ready to finance construction of the garment palli on 500 acres of land at Bausia in Munshiganj.
The delegation held a meeting with the ambassadors of eight European country missions in Dhaka on the first day. Later, they separately met Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
The delegation is due to hold a meeting with the Election Commission and call on Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, speaker of the House, and Sheikh Hasina, prime minister, today. They are scheduled to leave later in the day.