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European commission warns BD again about improving labour situation

The European Commission has repeated its concern over labour rights situation mainly with respect to freedom of association and successful implementation of the 'Compact' in the readymade garment sector of Bangladesh. It warned Bangladesh of taking steps, including launching investigation, to improve the situation ahead of withdrawal of the existing trade facility under the Generalised System of Preference (GSP).

The EC expressed concern and issued a warning in its report on the effects of GSP and the special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+) covering 2016-17 to the European parliament and the council. The report, published recently also raised concerns about the declining human and labour rights situations in Cambodia. The EU in particular raised the alignment of the Bangladesh Labour Act (BLA) and the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Act with the ILO labour rights conventions as one of the priority actions.

Following declining human and labour rights situations in Bangladesh and Cambodia, the commission engaged more actively with these two countries and involved relevant stakeholders like NGOs, CSOs, international organisations, social partners, and businesses. By generating millions of employment opportunities in the readymade garment industry where the large majority of workers are women the EBA (Everything But Arms) has contributed to its socio-economic development.

As per state minister for labour Mujibul Haque Chunnu the labour rights situation has improved and better now, and the government has also formed a new wage board to review the wages of the garment workers for the betterment of their living standard. The EC's latest warning has come after suspension of Bangladesh's GSP benefit by the US government in June 2013. The EU previously reminded Bangladesh authorities about taking necessary measures for ensuring workplace safety and labour rights to sustain its GSP benefit in the EU markets. The EU is the largest market of Bangladeshi products those enjoy duty-free facility under the EBA. Bangladesh fetched $17.75 billion from apparel exports to the EU in last fiscal year which is 63.06 per cent of total RMG exports, according to BGMEA data.