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

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Goghi
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

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
0.8837
JPY
USD
117.92
GBP
USD
0.6608
CAD
USD
1.2531
INR
USD
61.900

Rates may not be current.