Compact follow-up meeting in Brussels tomorrow

Slow progress in RMG remedial work to top agenda

Monira Munni | Published: June 24, 2018 10:38:59 | Updated: June 26, 2018 17:12:15

Women working at a readymade garment factory in Bangladesh — File photo

Slow progress in remedial work in apparel units will be high on the agenda at the next Sustainability Compact meeting, people involved with the process said.

The labour rights issues will also dominate the topics to be discussed at the fourth annual Compact follow-up meeting.

The progress in remedial work at the country's export-oriented readymade garment factories (RMG) as inspected under a national initiative.

The meeting will begin tomorrow (Monday) in Brussels.

It will take stock of the progress made in implementation of the remedial work.

Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, who will lead an 18-member Bangladesh delegation at the follow-up meeting, is scheduled to leave for Brussels tomorrow.

The other members of the delegation left for the Belgian capital on Saturday to attend the meeting.

EU, Bangladesh and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) signed the Sustainability Compact immediately after the Rana Plaza building collapse on April 24, 2013, which killed 1,134.

The USA and Canada later joined the forum to improve labour rights and factory safety in the country's RMG units.

Almost all, who perished under debris at the multi-storey Rana Plaza were RMG workers.

At least 2,500 were injured, most of them critically and were maimed, in the country's gravest apparel factory tragedy.

Many injured workers lost their ability to work at RMG units for rest of their lives.

Slow progress in post-inspection flaw fixing activities in factories under the national initiative topped the agenda at a recent meeting, a source told the FE.

The meeting was held between foreign diplomats and three secretaries - foreign, commerce and labour - to the government of Bangladesh.

The Compact partners expressed their dissatisfaction over the slow progress, the source said.

The '3+5+1' meeting, which was held on June 20, reviewed the ongoing activities, including workplace safety, in the country's RMG sector, he said.

The foreign diplomats wanted to set a timeline to complete the remediation work at RMG units inspected under the national initiative, he added.

He said the Bangladesh delegation is likely to inform the Compact review meeting about the remediation completion deadline.

State Minister for Labour Mujibul Haque recently warned of shutting the RMG units failing to complete the remediation work by December.

He came up with the warning on Thursday at a meeting with the representatives of the factories under the national initiative.

Issues especially related to labour are expected to be on top of the list in the Compact meeting, another source involved with the process said.

Recognising progress made in workplace safety, the last review meeting held in Dhaka last year pressed for ensuring labour rights and the recommendations made by the ILO, he said.

The Brussels meeting may also discuss issues, including freedom of association, collective bargaining, the 30 per cent threshold for registering a trade union and harassment of union activists, he stated.

Labour Secretary Afroza Khan recently told the FE that labour rights situation improved in the country.

"We have also addressed the recommendations made by the International Labour Organisation," she said.

As a result, Bangladesh was excluded from the shortlist of hearing at the International Labour Conference 2018 held in Geneva early this month, she added.

Inspector General of Department of Inspection for Factories, Shamsuzzaman Bhuiyan, said the government extended the deadline for completion of remediation work at factories under the national initiative until December.

The government recently decided to allow labour inspection in conformity with the labour law in factories located in eight export processing zones to ensure workers rights, another ministry official said.

The workers' representation requirement for trade union registration is set to be reduced to 20 per cent both in and outside the export processing zones, he stated.

At present, workers' representation is set at 30 per cent for trade union registration at factories.

"Work is going on to bring other necessary amendments to the labour law and export processing zone law in line with ILO recommendations," he added.

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