DHAKA: Brussels-based Foreign Trade Association (FTA), which represents trade interests of European retailers, brands and importers, has written to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urging her country to cooperate with international bodies, such as the European Union (EU) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), in tackling outstanding labour issues. Due to pressure from the EU, ILO and other stakeholders regarding the lack of respect for fundamental human and labour rights in Bangladesh, especially the right of freedom of association, uncertainty has been rising among European apparel companies that are chalking out their future sourcing strategy at present, FTA director general Christian Ewert wrote in a July letter.
The reported extension of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety (Accord) without mutual consent, the unclear role of the Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) and the July 3 boiler explosion in a textile factory in central Bangladesh have affected the reputation of the country as a sourcing hub and added to the uncertainty, he wrote. The RCC was set up by the Bangladesh Government in May this year to manage the remediation process for garment factories. It is supported by the ILO with funding from Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. After Rana Plaza building collapse of April 2013, which killed more than 1,100 workers, European retailers formed the Accord. Fifteen brands and retailers and two global rights groups — UNI Global Union and IndustriAll Global Union — on June 29 signed an agreement in Paris to extend the Accord’s tenure for three more years to 2021.
In June, the European Parliament adopted a resolution expressing concerns for the lack of progress in a number of areas of the Sustainability Compact, which brings together the EU, the Bangladesh Government, the United States, Canada and the ILO accompanied by employers, trade unions and other key stakeholders to promote continuous improvements in labour rights and factory safety in the readymade garment industry in the country. The EU has increasingly put pressure on Bangladesh to do more to align national laws and practices with ILO recommendations. The EU also warned that Bangladesh might risk losing the trade preferences granted under the EU’s ‘Everything But Arms’ initiative if it failed to address the issues, the letter noted. FTA will maintain its engagement with Bangladesh and a roundtable in November will look at the labour issues there, it added.