Progress on labour rights and factory safety in Bangladesh, but ILO calls for further improvements

The Government of Bangladesh has made important progress to ensure labour rights and factory safety in the ready-made garment and knitwear industry in Bangladesh, but a lot of work still remains to be done.

Press release | 20 October 2014
BRUSSELS - Since 2013, the Government of Bangladesh has made important progress to ensure labour rights application and factory safety in the ready-made garment and knitwear industry in Bangladesh, but a lot of work still remains to be done. This is the main conclusion of a stocktaking meeting organized in Brussels today by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Commission.

The meeting reviewed the actions outlined in the Sustainability Compact, an agreement signed by the ILO, the European Commission, the Governments of Bangladesh and the US in July 2013. The meeting also identified areas still in need of improvement, some urgent.

Important progress

ILO Deputy Director-General Sandra Polaski, addressing the meeting, acknowledged that important advances have been made by the Government of Bangladesh and the other Compact Partners since July 2013.

Amendments were made to the Bangladesh Labour Act, strengthening freedom of association, collective bargaining and occupational safety and health. New trade unions were registered.

Safety inspections were carried out in export-oriented garment factories. Public factory inspection services have been given more resources. A national occupational safety and health policy was adopted, standards for safety inspections were created. A review panel for closures of hazardous factories was established.

Further improvements required

The ILO stresses that, despite these developments, important improvements are still required in many areas.

The Bangladesh Labour Act should be effectively enforced and implemented, which requires that the Government issues rules and regulations in order to realize in practice the advances in the law.

The establishment and registration of trade unions must be made easier both in law and in practice. The right to strike should be protected and efforts are required to ensure that international labour standards such as freedom of association and collective bargaining are upheld.

The government should bring the Bangladesh Labour Act and legislation covering the Export Processing Zones into compliance with international labour standards, particularly with regard to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Education and training programmes on labour rights for law enforcement and other relevant personnel should be continued.

Victims of the Rana Plaza collapse should receive skills training and rehabilitation. The ILO also calls for an employment accident insurance scheme. “There can be no more fitting tribute to the victims of Rana Plaza than the creation of a sustainable employment accident insurance scheme in Bangladesh”, Sandra Polaski pointed out.

The publicly available database of factories should be upgraded and include sub-contractors.

A turning point

ILO Deputy Director-General Sandra Polaski stated that the ILO stands ready to carry on supporting the government of Bangladesh to develop and implement its commitments.

She concluded by reminding that the Rana Plaza tragedy was a “turning point that galvanized global public attention on the working conditions in an industry that is so vital for millions of Bangladeshi workers and the economy of Bangladesh as a whole”.

Sandra Polaski underlined that “government, the Compact partners, development partners and the garment industry must do whatever it takes to avoid loss of life and occupational injuries and to ensure the core labour rights of workers now and in the future”.

“The industry, in its efforts to establish its reputation as a fair and sustainable place to do business today and tomorrow, must show that it has properly addressed the oversights of the past. The Compact provides an ideal platform to do so, with the support of so many partners who want Bangladesh and its industries to succeed and its workers and citizens to enjoy rising standards of living, full enjoyment of rights and an optimistic and bright future”, Sandra Polaski concluded.


ILO-Brussels Office, + 32 (0)2 736 59 42,
Barbara Janssens, Communications Officer, ILO-Brussels, +32 (0)484 91 55 59,