European retailers stress amendment to labour law
Bangladesh must give out a clear plan for amending the labour law before the meeting of ILO experts on November 22 as the European consumers are keeping an eye on the progress, said a retail analyst yesterday.
“This is critical,” said Christian Ewert, director general of the Foreign Trade Association, a Brussels-based business association of retailers from 44 countries whose combined turnover is well over €1.6 trillion.
The experts of the International Labour Organisation will meet with the Bangladesh government to observe the progress of the promised amendment of the labour law.
They will write a report that will be published next month.
The report will be closely scrutinised not only by the European Commission but also by many others in the European Union such as the European parliament, NGOs, buying companies and even consumers, according to Ewert.
Many FTA members read the ILO reports with interest and take them into account for future buying decisions, he said.
“If this report is negative, the consequences on Bangladesh are very likely to be negative,” he said at the FTA Sustainability Forum held at the capital's Westin hotel.
The trade unions in the garment sector should have a legitimate platform where the grievances of the workers can be resolved by way of constructive discussions, said Daniel Seidl, senior adviser of the FTA in Bangladesh.
Ewert called for lowering the 30 percent threshold of workers or a certain ceiling of workforce to allow a trade union in factories such that the workers' rights are realised.
Citing a recent survey by Morgan Stanley, he said 87 percent of the people make their purchasing decisions based on social and environmental values and that 76 percent would boycott brands if they felt those values were not followed.
The EU is a vital export market for Bangladeshi garment manufacturers, accounting for 60 percent of the $28.14 billion of apparel export receipts last fiscal year.
In recent years, Bangladesh has made significant progress, particularly with building safety and workers' rights. Currently, Bangladesh enjoys zero-duty benefit to the EU under its Everything But Arms scheme.
Miran Ali, a director of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the amendment of the labour law will take place within the promised timeframe as the government has been working on it.
The government has already handed over the draft copy of the amendment of the law. Moreover, a team comprised of BGMEA leaders and government higher-ups including the labour minister have discussed the progress of the amendment with the ILO in Geneva recently.
Of the 10 top-rated green garment factories in the world, seven are in Bangladesh, Ali said. “Interestingly enough, the top three are also located in Bangladesh.”
Ali also said the labour ministry has already formed the tripartite council in the garment sector for resolving any crisis through discussions.
Moreover, the BGMEA and the Bangladesh Employers Federation in collaboration with the ILO have taken up an initiative to train the trade union leaders so that they can effectively carry out their responsibilities, Ali said.
Also at the event, Md Saiful Islam, president of the Leathergoods & Footwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association of Bangladesh, said the tanneries were shifted from Hazaribagh to Savar to ensure more compliance.
Out of 150 tanneries, 25 are now operational at the newly established Savar tannery estate.
The effluent treatment plant at the site significantly reduced the damages caused to the environment by the sector's production methods, he said.
MA Jabbar, managing director of DBL Group, also spoke.