200 inspectors by Oct 15
The government will appoint 200 more factory inspectors in efforts to regain the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) privileges to the US market by December, Commerce Minister GM Quader said yesterday.
The recruitment will be done by October 15 under special arrangements to avoid the usual lengthy process of selection in government jobs, Quader said. The labour and employment ministry has already appointed some inspectors, he added.
This is part of a series of steps the government has taken in line with the action plans recommended by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for the reinstatement of Bangladesh's GSP status.
The US government suspended the trade privileges on June 27, citing poor labour rights and bad working conditions at factories in Bangladesh.
On completion of six months of the suspension in December, it will reconsider its decision on the basis of the improvements in the situation.
"I am hopeful that Bangladesh will regain the GSP facilities in the review as the government is acting seriously to implement the action plans," Quader said at a press conference after the first meeting of the action plan implementing committee at his secretariat office in the capital.
Apart from the appointment of inspectors, the government will set up seven more fire fighting stations, especially in industry dense areas, to convince the US government to reinstate the trade privileges.
To fulfil the requirements, parliament has already amended the Labour Law of 2006 on July 15, giving workers more freedom to unionise at factories.
Moreover, the government has decided to register two trade unions as non-government organisations, which were turned down earlier owing to some legal complexities, the minister said.
He also said a website would be opened to provide information about compliant factories.
One of the factors behind the suspension of GSP facilities was the government's inaction following the murder of labour leader Aminul Islam.
The commerce minister said the government had recently shifted the murder case to the speedy trial tribunal and announced awards for providing information of the killers of the labour leader.
The government will also pressure the garment owners to reappoint the retrenched workers.
"If the owners do not follow the government order, it will take actions against them."
Quader said the stakeholders would hold meetings regularly in the first week of every month up to December to review the progress in fulfilling the requirements.
The government will also move to lift the bar on strikes in factories inside the Export Processing Zones (EPZ) before the review and at the same time will reform the rules of the EPZs' operation.
"The provision of blacklisting of workers of the factories inside the EPZs [for any violation of the rules] will also be removed by December," the minister said.
Bangladesh will have to act fast to fulfil the promises it made in the "Compact" agreement signed with the Euripean Union on July 19 in Geneva in partnership with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) apart from implementing the action plan of the USTR.
The EU will also observe the progress under the agreement from next January to December, though it did not announce any trade action against Bangladesh until now, the minister said.