European commissioner for trade Karel De Gucht has said improvements in labour rights must be extended to the Export Processing Zones in Bangladesh.
‘Of course, the reality is that there’s still much more to do. Most urgently, implementing regulations on labour reform must be enacted soon. Improvements in labour rights must be extended to the Export Processing Zones,’ he said.
Gutch said all the enabling conditions must be in place, not only in law but in practice, for workers to organise into trade unions and make their voice heard at the factory level.
The EU trade commissioner said this while addressing an informal ministerial meeting of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development — Rana Plaza Aftermath — in Paris on Thursday.
The Bangladesh government, the European Union and the International Labour Organisation launched the Sustainability Compact for Bangladesh to improve labour rights and factory conditions in the garment industry and much of that programme has been put into practice.
‘Over the coming weeks, the European Commission will be working on a full assessment of where we stand today. Once that is done we hope to call a meeting this autumn of all parties to the Compact as well as other stakeholders to get their perspective and set the agenda going forward,’ Gutch said.
He said the European Union had an obligation to act because it granted duty- and quota-free tariff preferences to Bangladesh which had been a boon to the country’s export performance.
‘The European Union was — and still is — the largest client of Bangladesh’s garment business. We imported over 9 billion euros worth in 2013,’ Gutch added.
Bangladesh has amended its labour law improving labour rights. It has also upgraded its system for inspecting factory safety and begun the recruitment process of hundreds of new inspectors.
Gutch said Bangladesh’s labour law still needed to address restrictions on trade union formation and membership, no later than in the next iteration of the labour law reform.
The recruitment of labour inspectors needs to be accelerated, inspections need to proceed and their results published, he added.
-With New Age input