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ILO to Boost Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Rights in New Initiative

Workplace rights in Bangladesh could soon take another turn for the better as a new International Labour Organization (ILO) initiative looks to promote social dialogue and harmonious industrial relations in the country’s ready-made garment sector.

The ILO launched the initiative with backing from the Swedish government, which will provide $5.4 million in funding from November 2015 through December 2020 for the program.

As part of the initiative, according to the ILO, the ready-made garment sector will enjoy enhanced labor relations at the workplace level with better dialogue between employers and workers. Arbitration will also be made more effective so that workers feel they can trust the system should they have concerns to settle, collective bargaining will be supported and women will be empowered.

Bangladesh, which has in recent years gotten considerable negative press about its adverse working conditions, currently comprises 3,500 export-oriented factories that generate more than 80 percent of the country’s earnings. Women overwhelmingly make up the 4.2 million workforce. The country has put many programs in place and new organizations like the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh have sprung up with the goal of cleaning up the sector and increasing compliance in terms of labor, structural and safety related conditions.

“While much progress has been made in Bangladesh over recent years, this initiative will contribute towards improved working conditions and labor rights in the garment sector, in line with relevant international labor standards,” ILO director-general Guy Ryder said.

Speaking on behalf of the Bangladesh government, Secretary of the Ministry of Labor and Employment Mikail Shipar said the initiative, which will target the garment sector to start, will help the country toward its goal of improving working conditions.

The ILO will implement the initiative, officially dubbed “Promoting Social Dialogue and Harmonious Industrial Relations in the Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment Industry” in partnership with the country’s Department of Labor and alongside employers, workers organizations like the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and international buyers and trade unions.