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EU sets June deadline for Bangladesh to comply on labour rights

The European Union has suggested Bangladesh comply with the ILO-recommended labour right standards by mid-June 2017 to avoid “consequences” with regard to its current trade privileges in the EU. The suggestion was put forward by a four-member EU delegation that wrapped up its three-day Bangladesh tour.

The EU team also stressed on the need for a uniform labour law for all workers -- including those employed at factories in export processing zones. The team pointed out that the EU and other partners of the Sustainability Compact would review the progress Bangladesh made in the RMG sector in terms of ensuring workplace safety and labour rights.

Following the Rana Plaza disaster in April 2013, Bangladesh signed the Sustainability Compact with the EU in September that year, committing itself to responsible business behaviour and improvement of workplace safety and labour rights.

EU is currently examining the whole issue of fairness in garment supply chains across the globe. “The Accord and Alliance are encouraging examples of what can be achieved when companies, government and workers pool efforts to improve standards.”

The delegation led by Arne Lietz, a member of the EU Parliament, met the prime minister, the speaker of parliament, the commerce minister, the labour minister, leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and labour unions, representatives of brands and retailers, and also ILO officials.

Lietz said, “We felt a readiness and goodwill from all parties to engage on this issue and are hopeful this will translate into concrete progress before the May review of Sustainability Compact in Dhaka and the Geneva ILO Conference in mid-June. As members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, our engagement with Bangladesh, as with other countries, is guided by our core values where respect for human rights and labour rights, in particular freedom of association and collective bargaining, ranks high. That is why the full implementation of the Sustainability Compact is so important in our view.”

Bangladesh raked in $18.68 billion from its exports to the EU in fiscal 2015-16, which was 54.57 percent of the total receipts for the year. Of the $18.68 billion, $17.15 billion was from apparel shipments. The EU currently accounts for more than 62 percent of Bangladesh's garment export receipts in a year.