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OECD offers guidelines for Bangladesh garment sector

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has offered new guidelines for the garment and footwear sectors in Bangladesh. The guidelines represent a move beyond voluntary, non-binding auditing and corporate social responsibility initiatives, which have done little or nothing to protect and improve the rights of workers.

The new standards have been endorsed by brands, labor and industry, and involve real worker participation in identifying risk and violations of human rights, while encouraging direct negotiations with labor.

The guidelines allow workers and trade unions to actively participate in designing and implementing on-site supplier assessments, developing corrective action plans, monitoring impacts and formulating operational-level grievance mechanisms. Significantly, they promote responsible purchasing practices, lack of which can lead to excessive and forced overtime as well as low wages for workers. The guidelines include various modules on sector risks, including child labor, sexual harassment and gender-based violence, forced labor, working time, occupational health and safety, trade unions and collective bargaining, and wages as well as environmental hazards.

By creating mechanisms that link unions, buyers and suppliers, OECD aims to create a framework for genuine supply chain industrial relations for a fair and stable global garment industry. It sees workers not as peripheral to the due diligence process but core to it.