The Fair Trade Association has sent a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh urging the country to cooperate with international bodies such as the European Union and the International Labor Organization in tackling outstanding labor issues.
Uncertainty among companies has been rising due to the pressure from the EU, ILO and other stakeholders regarding the lack of respect of fundamental human and labor rights in Bangladesh, notably the right of freedom of association, the FTA said.
Based in Brussels, the FTA promotes the values of international trade and sustainable supply chains. It represents more than 2,000 retailers, importers and brands to support their businesses by providing information and practical solutions toward increased sustainability in value chains. The FTA said its companies buy from more than 2,200 Bangladesh factories, making it the third most important sourcing destination for its members.
In June, the European Parliament adopted a resolution expressing concerns for the lack of progress in a number of areas of the Sustainability Compact in Bangladesh. The EU has put increasing pressure on Bangladesh to do more to align national laws and practice with ILO recommendations, the organization noted. The EU also warned that Bangladesh might risk losing the trade preferences granted under the EU’s Everything But Arms initiative if it did not address the standing issues.
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“The partners of the Sustainability Compact and ILO urged your government to develop a clear strategy to effectively enforce the respect of labor rights, in particular the freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain, and to set a deadline for completion of the process to allow trade unions in Export Processing Zones,” FTA wrote in the letter. “Many of our members are currently finalizing their annual budget planning and need to decide about their future sourcing strategy. In light of this, FTA has been mandated by its members to seek clarification from the government of Bangladesh about its response to the official request made by the European Commission.”
The FTA said it will maintain its engagement in the country, as well as the close consultations with the cabinet of the Prime Minister, and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and noted that an FTA round table is scheduled for mid-November that will look at the labor issues in the country. It will also continue to monitor the situation closely and has offered its support to the EU and Bangladesh in facilitating dialogue on the outstanding issues, with the hope of arriving to a positive result for all actors involved.