Bangladesh to showcase progress in labour standards on Feb 13
The first meeting of a panel consists of three secretaries and five diplomats will be held in Dhaka on February 13 to highlight the progress made in different areas, including factory and safety standards, under the Sustainability Compact.
Progress under the deal may help Bangladesh regain trade privileges from the United States that suspended the generalised system of preferences status on June 27 last year.
The EU signed the Sustainability Compact involving International Labour Organisation in Geneva on July 8 last year to improve safety standards in the factories.
“We will mainly discuss the progresses made under the agreement,” said Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar by phone yesterday.
The compact is a roadmap that ties the government to three specific action plans: labour rights; structural integrity of buildings and occupational safety and health, and responsible business conduct with stakeholders. But it is not a legally binding agreement.
The EU and Bangladesh resolved to work together on improving labour rights, addressing safety concern, uplifting factory building conditions and ensuring responsible businesses in the country's garment sector.
Bangladesh is also committed to improving 16 conditions that were given to the government by the US after suspension of the trade preferences.
Of the 16 conditions, Bangladesh has made good progresses in some areas, the secretary said.
Bangladesh amended the labour law on July 15 last year to allow full freedom of association by the workers.
But, the regulations are yet to be in place to apply the amended law in the factories. The labour ministry has created 400 posts to recruit 200 additional factory inspectors, although they were supposed to be employed by December last year, Shipar said.
The case on the murder of labour leader Aminul Islam has also been transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department, which was one of the conditions to regain the trade privilege to the US.
“So, we made good progresses in every step. We will highlight those in the meeting,” Shipar said. “We have not failed yet. We are trying to improve the situation so that the EU is not influenced by the US decision to suspend GSP.”
Last December, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht in a letter to the foreign ministry also appreciated the progresses made in Bangladesh, he added. The EU was following the implementation of the agreement closely, together with the Bangladesh government, the US and ILO, the letter added.
“As the year is drawing to a close, it will be important to show visible progress on key commitments under the Compact, in particular, timely adoption of implementing regulations for the new labour law, recruitment of additional inspectors, and meeting this autumn's reporting obligations under the ILO framework,” the letter said.
“Allow us to congratulate Bangladesh on its achievements since the meeting in Geneva in July, including adoption of the new labour law, initiation of the Better Work Programme and the work started to ensure garment factory inspection throughout the country.”
“If the foreign diplomats or policymakers are not satisfied despite progress, I will say it is unfortunate,” Shipar said.
“If Bangladesh cannot show improvement, it will have an impact on the country's image.”
An eight-member committee was formed, comprising three secretaries from the ministries of commerce, labour and employment and foreign affairs to oversee the progresses in safety standards and workers' rights establishment under the compact.
In addition, mission chiefs from the US, EU, the Netherlands, Britain and Germany will represent their sides at the committee. Currently, Bangladesh enjoys zero-duty benefit on the export of goods to the EU under trade privileges.
Of the country's total exports, 60 percent goes to the EU, which is nearly $14 billion, with more than 80 percent as garment items.