Bangladesh has taken all the steps recommended by the European Union and the International Labour Organisation to ensure labour rights, said Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday.
He said: “Bangladesh's government has taken all necessary steps in line with the suggestions from the European Union. As a result the situation has improved. Bangladesh is now setting up factories that have good working condition and are safe and green.”
Among the measures taken, the minister said the bargaining rights of the workers have been ensured. Workers can now form union if 30 percent labourers of a factory want to do so.
“Workers employed at factories inside the export processing zones are enjoying their rights through Workers Welfare Association,” he said in a statement.
The minister made the remarks after a meeting with an EU delegation at the secretariat in Dhaka. Delegation Leader Arne Lietz, also a member of the European Parliament, told reporters that Bangladesh's garment sector is moving ahead very fast.
“The EU is doing business with Bangladesh under the EBA (Everything but Arms) initiative. This cooperation will also continue in the future.”
In the commerce ministry's statement, Lietz said the EU wants Bangladesh's workers to enjoy labour rights as per laws. “Bangladesh is working on the issue satisfactorily. The work to protect labour rights has to be continued. There are a lot of opportunities to work in the area.”
Tofail Ahmed lauded the EU's role in Bangladesh's development. “The EU is playing an important role in Bangladesh's development and poverty eradication efforts.” Bangladesh raked in $18.68 billion from its exports to the EU in 2015-16, which was 54.57 percent of the total receipts for the year.
“The export would have stood at $20 billion if the euro was not devalued,” said the commerce minister.
Ahmed said garment factory owners are making huge investment to ensure compliance, but international buyers are not paying higher prices for the products they are sourcing from Bangladesh.
“The prices have to be increased,” he said.
EU Parliament MPs Linda McAvan, Norbert Neuser and Agnes Jongerius and EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Pierre Mayaudon were present during the meeting, according to the statement.