From 1-4 May, a high level delegation of the ILO, led by Deputy Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships, Mr. Gilbert Houngbo, visited Bangladesh to convey the solidarity of the ILO with those affected by these tragic events, the partners from government, labour, and industry, and to the nation as a whole. The Mission engaged with the tripartite partners and other stakeholders to identify what needs to be done to prevent any such future tragedies.
The tripartite partners stand united in their resolve to do everything possible to prevent further tragedy. In this respect, the tripartite partners and the ILO have agreed on the necessity to develop an action plan focusing on the following short and medium term steps:
- Submission to Parliament, during its next session, which is expected to be called in June 2013, of a labour law reform package, that considers inputs of the tripartite partners and that would improve protection, in law and practice, for the fundamental rights to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, as well as occupational safety and health.
- Assess by the end of 2013 the structural building safety and fire safety of all active export-oriented ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh, and initiate remedial actions, including relocation of unsafe factories. The tripartite partners call on the ILO to assist in the mobilisation of the technical and financial resources required to undertake the assessment.
- The tripartite partners call on the ILO to launch a skills and training programme for workers who sustained injuries in the recent tragic events at Tazreen Fashions Ltd., Smart Export Garments and Rana Plaza that resulted in disability. In addition, BGMEA and BKMEA are to redeploy the RMG workers that were rendered unemployed as well as rehabilitated workers as was emphasized by the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
- Recruit, within 6 months, 200 additional inspectors by the Government and ensure that, the Department of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Establishments will have been upgraded to a Directorate with an annual regular budget allocation adequate to enable i) the recruitment of a minimum of 800 inspectors and ii) the development of the infrastructure required for their proper functioning.
- Implement, in full, the National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety in the RMG Industry in Bangladesh, and extend its scope to include structural integrity of buildings to improve health, occupational and structural safety and other vulnerable sectors, to be identified in consultation with the relevant stakeholders.
- The tripartite partners call upon the Better Work joint management (ILO/IFC) to meet immediately after the adoption of the labour law, assuming the law reform package adopted would constitute improved protection, in law and practice, for the fundamental rights to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, as well as occupational safety and health and progress on trade union registration would continue.
Safety must be given the highest consideration by the Government, employers and workers in Bangladesh. Those responsible for the tragic events that have occurred in Bangladesh over the past 6 months shall be held accountable. Unless lawful actions are taken at the earliest more lives may be lost in preventable industrial accidents. The tripartite partners therefore resolved to increase their efforts to provide every single worker in Bangladesh with a safe work place, and to ensure workers’ rights and representation, regardless of whether that work place may be a garment factory, a retail shop or a bank.. The ILO expresses its appreciation for the resolve of the tripartite partners.
The tripartite partners and the ILO acknowledge that the challenges are daunting but believe that, if international buyers and brands take increased responsibility for improving working conditions and safety and health and with the active support of development partners and donors, safety can and must be improved in all workplaces throughout Bangladesh.