The Rana Plaza building collapse, in the country’s capital Dhaka in April 2013, claimed the lives of over 1,100 factory workers and injured many more.
“We cannot wait for future disasters before we act to make the world's factories and workplaces safe and decent places to work,” said Ryder at the event, Post Rana Plaza: a Vision for the Future, organized by the Government of Denmark in Copenhagen.
Ryder highlighted action taken with the Government of Bangladesh and employers’ and workers’ organizations, including building and fire safety assessments; labour inspections; and occupational safety and health, rehabilitation and skills training for survivors.
These and other responses were agreed in the Bangladesh National Tripartite Plan of Action (NTPA), in support of which the ILO is implementing a US$24.2 million, three-and-a-half year programme in the country.
Ryder also drew attention to the complementary work of international initiatives including the Accord for Building and Fire Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.
The Accord is an agreement between more than 150 international brands and retailers with suppliers in Bangladesh, and global unions IndustriALL and UNIGlobal. The Alliance brings together 26 North American retailers and brands importing ready made garments from Bangladesh.
The ILO is the neutral chair of the Accord, which covers 1,639 of the 3,498 Bangladesh factories making garments for export. The Alliance covers a further estimated 770 factories.
International coordination was essential, Ryder said, when supply chains in 21st century industry spread across the globe.
“We need to take stock to ensure global supply chains perform safely and in line with internationally respected rights, so that goods, wherever produced, are made in conditions of decent work,” he said.
Work by the Rana Plaza Coordination Committee, set up by the Government of Bangladesh, employers’ and workers’ organizations, garment brands and NGOs to ensure compensation for Rana Plaza survivors and victims' families is encouraging, Ryder said. However work needs to continue to increase momentum and ensure sufficient funds are raised through the Donors Trust Fund.
Improvements in everyone’s interests
The garment sector in Bangladesh plays a vital role in the country, making a major contribution to current GDP growth of 6 per cent and to significant poverty reduction in recent years.
“The sector needs to be safer and more sustainable, while at the same time maintaining its role in supporting Bangladesh’s legitimate development aspirations,” Ryder said.
“Better working conditions are in everyone’s interests; a safer industry does not mean a less profitable one,” he added.
Earlier in the day Ryder met with the Danish Prime Minister, Helling Thorning-Schmidt, who reaffirmed Denmark’s commitment to the ILO and announced additional funding for efforts to improve working conditions in developing countries, including Bangladesh.
“We greatly appreciate the continued cooperation with the Danish government and this additional funding, which will help in concerted efforts to improve working conditions,” Ryder said.
Ryder also met with the Ministers of Employment and of Trade and Development and Danish employer and worker representatives during his visit.