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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8140
JPY
USD
118.81
GBP
USD
0.6402
CAD
USD
1.1597
INR
USD
63.066

Rates may not be current.