News / Economy

ILO Works to Improve Conditions for Bangladesh Garment Workers

Garment workers shout as they call on other workers to join them during a protest in Dhaka, Sept. 23, 2013.Garment workers shout as they call on other workers to join them during a protest in Dhaka, Sept. 23, 2013.
x
Garment workers shout as they call on other workers to join them during a protest in Dhaka, Sept. 23, 2013.
Garment workers shout as they call on other workers to join them during a protest in Dhaka, Sept. 23, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
The International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Bangladesh government have launched a program to improve working standards for the country’s nearly 4 million garment workers.   The initiative comes six months after the worst disaster in the country’s garment industry killed more than 1,100 people and put the spotlight on hazardous working conditions in the thriving sector.

The deputy director general for field operations of the International Labor Organization, Gilbert Huongbo, said a key focus of the new initiative will be effective implementation of a new labor law that allows workers to unionize.

The program, which will roll out over three and a half years, was launched in Dhaka on Tuesday.
 
Huongbo told VOA labor unions can play a significant role in securing better standards for Bangladesh’s garment workers.  “The new labor law provides much better protection for the workers to unionize. The freedom of association is more effective. In the past the set up was not very conducive. It is an improvement in terms of collective bargaining,” he said. 

Up until now,  workers had to get permission from factory owners to form unions, which were discouraged.  And there have been many complaints of harassment by labor leaders.   

The program will also focus on better workplace safety. This will involve assessment of thousands of factories for fire and structural safety. Unsafe factories will be relocated. But the ILO is stressing the need for credible inspections.
 
  • Firefighters try to control a fire in a garment factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh, Oct. 9, 2013.
  • Firefighters try to control a fire inside a garment factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh, Oct. 9, 2013.
  • A firefighter inspects a fire inside a garment factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh, Oct. 9, 2013.
  • A firefighter tries to douse a fire at a garment factory in Gazipur outside Dhaka, Oct. 9, 2013.
  • A woman mourns with her child as her relative, a garment worker, is reported missing after a fire inside a garment factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh, Oct. 9, 2013.

Two massive accidents in the past year have put Bangladesh under pressure to radically improve work conditions in its garment factories, which churn out clothes for leading global brands. Last November a fire swept through a garment factory killing 110 workers.  More than 1,100 were crushed to death when an eight story building collapsed this past April. There have been several smaller accidents in recent years.

The new program also includes rehabilitation and skills training for those injured in disasters.   
 
Gilbert Huongbo of the ILO said if what they plan is implemented, things will improve in the garment sector. But he stresses the need for caution. “But as I said the devil is in the detail. One has to keep the momentum, one has to keep the pressure on all parties. At the end of the day, the international community can only help. The real thing has to come from the government, from the local employers, and from the trade unions, the people of Bangladesh,” he stated. 

The move to improve working conditions in Bangladesh is being backed by activist groups like Europe-based Clean Clothes Campaign.  On Monday, the group launched a campaign to “Pay a living wage” to garment workers in Bangladesh and other Asian countries.

Bangladesh’s minimum wage is the lowest in Asia - $38 a month.  

Emma Harbour at Clean Clothes Campaign in the Netherlands says better union representation in garment factories will help workers bargain for a better wage. She said they are also trying to raise awareness among Western consumers.
    
“We are calling on consumers here in Europe to make it known to brands and their governments that low wages is not acceptable. One of the excuses we often hear from brands is that consumers don’t want to pay more," she said. "But the reality is that to pay a decent living wage in Bangladesh the difference in a 20 Euro T-shirt would be less than one euro.”
 
The Bangladesh government is expected to announce a hike in the minimum wage next month. Industry analysts in Dhaka say the Bangladesh government is aware that it needs to revamp its garment sector to avoid business moving away. The garment sector is the country’s biggest industry earning more than $ 20 billion a year.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8930
JPY
USD
117.98
GBP
USD
0.6673
CAD
USD
1.2445
INR
USD
61.498

Rates may not be current.