The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has signed an agreement with ethical trading consultancy Impactt to help improve productivity in the country’s garment factories.
Under the agreement, BGMEA and Impactt will roll out a program called, “Benefits for Business and Workers” (BBW) to 200 garment factories in Dhaka and Chittagong regions by December 2015. The program has already improved efficiency and quality and supported better jobs for workers in forty-five factories, according to a statement.
At the agreement signing ceremony, BGMEA president Atiqul Islam said no apparel producing country can sustain itself in the long-run without enhancing worker skills and improving productivity at clothing units. He added that garment factories must also work to ensure fire safety.
Impactt launched BBW in 2011 with the goal of supporting workers at garment factories in Bangladesh and India. To date, the program has been rolled out to seventy-three factories, employing 102,110 workers. Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, Ralph Lauren, Tesco and Sainsbury’s are among those in support of the initiative.
According to Impactt, the firm has so far put “more than US$6.6 million dollars into workers’ pockets over 12 months, halving worker turnover in Bangladesh and reducing it by a quarter in India.”
Rosey Hurst, Impactt chairman, said the new partnership could be significant for Bangladesh as it could help the garment industry become more competitive, providing better jobs for workers.
This Thursday, an eight-member committee made up of three secretaries from the ministries of commerce, labor and employment, and foreign affairs will meet in Dhaka to discuss the progress Bangladesh has made as far as factory and safety standards as outlined in the Sustainability Compact, The Daily Star reported.
The European Union launched the compact with the Bangladeshi government in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to improve working conditions in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG) industry.
While it isn’t legally binding, the does commit all undersigned members to reform the Bangladesh Labour Law, strengthen workers’ rights and improve building and fire safety by June 2014.
Progress made in terms of the compact could help the country regain its suspended Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade privileges with the U.S.
Bangladesh’s labor secretary Mikail Shipar said the country has made some good progress and that would be noted in the upcoming meeting. “We have not failed yet. We are trying to improve the situation so that the EU is not influenced by the US decision to suspend GSP,” he told The Daily Star.