Not enough is being done to protect the rights of garment workers in Bangladesh say global unions.

Global unions criticize Bangladesh Government over EU compact

26.01.2016

Three global unions have made a critical assessment of the Government of Bangladesh saying it is failing to comply with a compact made with the European Union in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster.

More than 1,110 workers were killed when a garment factory complex collapsed in April 2013.  The Bangladesh Sustainability Compact was established between the European Union and the Government of Bangladesh with the support of the International Labour Organization (ILO) to improve labour rights and health and safety in the ready-made garment sector in the country.

The evaluation by the International Trade Union Confederation, IndustriALL Global Union and Uni Global Union, comes ahead of a closed Sustainability Compact review meeting hosted by the Government of Bangladesh on 27 January. It says: 

“Far too much remains to be done by the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) and the garment industry, not only to ensure fire and building safety but to simply guarantee basic respect for the law – including both national and international labour standards.”

The report says it is aware of more than 100 cases of anti-union discrimination in factories where new trade unions have been registered and criticizes the Government for failing to guarantee freedom of association:

The inability of many workers to organize and form unions without retaliation and to bargain collectively over the terms and conditions of work means that any gains in building and fire safety and other conditions of work will not be sustainable, leading to certain future tragedies.

The report questions the rigor of factory inspections made by the Bangladesh national tripartite committee which immediately declared 80 per cent of the factories within its remit to be safe, whereas inspections by the Bangladesh Accord and the Alliance found critical issues in every single factory.

The evaluation also condemns a severe climate of anti-union violence in Bangladesh, frequently directed by company management, with the perpetrators of the crimes having near total impunity.

The global unions are calling on the European Union to use its preferential trade scheme (GSP) with Bangladesh to secure meaningful and immediate improvements. Bangladesh benefits from the EU's "Everything but Arms" arrangement, which grants duty and quota free access for all exports, except arms and ammunition.

“There is no question that the GOB is directly or indirectly responsible for very serious violations which are in clear breach of the ILO standards incorporated into the EU GSP scheme,” says the evaluation.

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said:  

The action by Bangladesh Government to meet the terms of the Sustainability Compact has been inadequate. Anti-union discrimination continues, violence against union leaders goes unpunished and workers who have reported safety problems have been sacked. The Government must do more to protect its workers in the garment industry or risk another tragedy.”