Garment industry in Bangladesh

ILO: Rana Plaza is an opportunity to change how global supply chains operate

ILO Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnerships Gilbert Houngbo says that the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh which killed over 1,100 garment workers in April 2013 can be a catalyst for change.

News | 24 April 2014
DHAKA (ILO News) – Bangladesh can change the way global supply chains operate, said ILO Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnerships Gilbert Houngbo at a Rana Plaza commemoration event in Dhaka.

Speaking on the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse, Gilbert Houngbo said that: “Rana Plaza was a tragedy for Bangladesh. It was also a global tragedy, shining a light on issues concerning millions of workers, employers, brands and consumers – the entire supply chain.”

Houngbo said it was a call for change that suddenly closed the gap between consumers in developed economies and the workers who make their clothes.

“I am pleased to be able to say that change is happening. There has been significant progress to improve working conditions and secure workers’ rights during the last 12 months in Bangladesh,” he said.

He also pointed to international initiatives launched by buyers and retailers.

“The Accord and the Alliance are unprecedented commitments to make the factories they source from safer,” he said.

The ILO serves as the neutral chair of the Accord, which brings together more than 150 international brands and retailers who have suppliers in Bangladesh, and two global unions (IndustriALL, UNI Global). In total, the Accord covers 1,639 of the 3,498 Bangladesh factories making garments for export. The Alliance is a group of 26 North American retailers and brands. It covers a further estimated 770 factories.

Challenges ahead

While compensation payments have started for the survivors and families of those who died at Rana Plaza, Houngbo said that it would be unacceptable if all legitimate claims were not fully honoured.

“I am calling on all stakeholders to step up to the plate and ensure the Trust Fund target is reached,” he said.

The ILO Deputy Director-General also called for better preparedness in the event of future accidents through an effective workplace injury insurance scheme in Bangladesh.

“Sustainable systems need to be in place to ensure that compensation can be resolved efficiently and fairly,” he said.

Drawing attention to the challenges that lie ahead, Houngbo said: “We all know that change does not come easy but these difficulties should not discourage us from driving through what is required to make sure the Bangladesh garment sector is a catalyst for sustainable change in Bangladesh and around the world.”

“All stakeholders have to come together to work in a harmonized way, none of us can do it alone,” he added.