12:28 AM, April 30, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:54 AM, April 30, 2013

Int'l Labour Conference

Dhaka faces hard time

ILO mission due on May 1

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Shakhawat Liton

Following the Rana Plaza disaster, the government may face a hard time at the International Labour Conference scheduled for early June this year, said officials concerned.
The tragedy, which claimed the lives of 384 people as of yesterday evening, caused by lack of safety standards would be the main agenda of the conference, said officials of the labour ministry and the International Labour Organisation office in Dhaka.
A high level mission led by Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo -- ILO deputy director general for field operations and partnership, and the former prime minister of Togo -- would be sent to Dhaka on May 1 to assess safety measures in the apparels sector and determine its next course of actions, said an ILO senior official from Dhaka seeking anonymity.
The group would meet the government's top officials and others concerned, and may also meet the prime minister before it leaves for Geneva on May 4.
"Bangladesh government [at the conference] has to account for the tragic deaths of the workers," the ILO official told The Daily Star yesterday.
"We will have to face embarrassing situations at the labour conference for the Savar tragedy. We are worried about it," said Secretary to the Labour and Employment Ministry Mikail Shipar.
Another senior official at the labour and employment ministry said the Rana Plaza tragedy would be the main focus of the ILC discussions, which would be labour rights and safety centric.
"The hundreds of deaths in the collapse have been heavily publicised nationally and internationally. Many of these media outlets have portrayed the incident as murder," he said.
He added that the devastating fire at Tazreen Fashions in November last year, which killed 112 people, exposed the serious deficiency in fire safety in the Ready Made Garments industry in Bangladesh. It was only then that a national tripartite plan of action for fire safety in the RMG sector was prepared, which engaged the ILO, Bangladesh government, RMG employers and workers.
"But before the action plan could be implemented, the Savar tragedy exposed structural faults in Rana Plaza."
The official said the government would, however, have more than a month to prepare its responses to counter all questions and concerns that could be raised at the conference.
"If we fail to convince the conference to ensure safety of workers by our measures, any negative remarks will go against the country's image," he feared.
The ILO official from Dhaka, however, said the labour conference may outline some tasks for the Bangladesh government to ensure safety of workers.
Since the inception of the UN specialised agency dealing with labour issues, safety and health at factories have been a cornerstone of ILO's work.
Bangladesh has been a member state of the ILO since June 22, 1972, and ratified 33 ILO Conventions -- including seven fundamental conventions which promised to work to improve occupational safety and health hazards, combat child labour, and create employment opportunities through technical and vocational education and training reforms.

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