Against the backdrop of the Savar tragedy, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) voiced its opposition against boycotting of Bangladeshi readymade garments by the international buyers. “I want to make a plea to resist the temptation for boycott or sanction. We have to keep that away from the situation provided that we act and we act now in the country,” Deputy Director-General of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo told a press conference at the Foreign Ministry on Saturday afternoon before leaving Dhaka on completion of his visit to Bangladesh.
“I met some of the representatives of the buyers during my stay here. My understanding is that there is a serious will by the international brands to contribute. It is a matter of global organisations how do we orchestrate everything to make it happen. Be it prior security dimensions or the overall supply dimension,” he said.
The ILO official also said, “We may have issues, we may have disagreements. I do believe there is a sense of urgency. I do believe we have to act now.”
By doing so, the international buyers can be called upon to continue doing business with Bangladesh, he added.
Houngbo, also a former Prime Minister of Togo, said that political will and commitment was the key to resolve the issues relating to labour safety in Bangladesh.
“The first issue is not a money issue. The first issue is about a political commitment and a commitment by all parties. The country needs a permanent social dialogue,” he said.
Asked how long it might take to bring any qualitative change in labour safety issue in Bangladesh, he said, “Let’s be pragmatic. All those decisions are to be made or confirmed by the government. In our view, there is a sense of urgency in addressing all those issues.”
“The train has to leave the station. The gates are down, the lights are flashing but we got to see the train leaving quickly,” he added.
The ILO official described the past few months as quite difficult, saying, “We need actions not words. We must move forward.”
The UN’s labour agency urged Bangladesh to close unsafe factories as rescuers Saturday pulled more bodies from the wreckage of the nation’s worst industrial disaster in which at least 548 have died.
The collapse of the eight-storey garment factory complex outside Dhaka last week was the latest in a string of catastrophes to befall the country’s $20 billion textile industry which accounts for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s exports.
The ILO official said action is needed to ensure such “avoidable accidents” that tarnish the image of Bangladesh’s industrial image never recur.”
“Part of the action that needs to be taken is to make sure all factories are inspected and any remedial action necessary is put in place,” Houngbo told AFP.
“Some factories (that cannot be repaired) may have to close down,” said the former prime minister of the West African nation Togo.
The press conference was attended, among others, by member of parliament Fazlul Azim, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque, Labour and Employment, Secretary Mikail Shipar, BGMEA President M Atiqul Islam, BKMEA first vice president M Hatem and Bangladesh Employers Federation President M Fazul Haque, National Coordinated Committee for Workers Education, US Ambassador Dan W Mozena, EU Ambassador William Hanna, Canadian High Commissioner Heather Cruden and UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh and United Nations resident representative Neal Walker.
Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said, “This is a turning point in the history of Bangladesh. There is convergence of interest for bringing change in the industry. This is not a time for blame game. There is a political commitment. It is Bangladeshis who will have to do that.”
Meanwhile, a joint statement with regard to workplace safety, issued by tripartite partners (government, employers and workers) upon the conclusion of the visit by the ILO delegation, was read out at the press conference.
-With The Independent input