After a series of deadly garment factory fires, the Bangladeshi government and the International Labor Organization have launched a major initiative — including a new Better Work program — aimed at improving working conditions in the ready-made garment industry in the South Asian country.
The three-and-a-half year initiative, "Improving Working Conditions in the Ready-Made Garment Sector," focuses on minimizing the threat of fire and building collapse in ready-made garment factories and on ensuring the rights and safety of workers.
It has been developed in collaboration with government, employers’ and workers’ representatives, in response to a number of industrial accidents in the sector, including the Rana Plaza building collapse in April, in which more than 1,100 workers died.
“The ready-made garment industry is vital to Bangladesh’s economic growth, but it needs to be safe and sustainable,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in a statement. “This program supports the National Tripartite Plan of Action on fire safety and structural integrity and will lead to lasting improvements in working conditions for the tens of thousands of garment factory workers in Bangladesh.”
The U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents American employers in the ILO, welcomed the extension of the Better Work program to improve workplace conditions in Bangladesh.
“It signals a strong commitment by governments, in concert with global employers and trade unions, as well as their counterparts in Bangladesh, to improve working conditions in the country,” said USCIB President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Robinson.
Operational since 2009, the Better Work program brings together governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, global brands and supplier factories to improve both productivity and working conditions those factories. The program assesses compliance with labor laws, posts reports online and provides targeted capacity building training to improve compliance with labor standards as well as the competitiveness of the factory.
Robinson said USCIB has worked to line up U.S. corporate support for the Better Work program, including financial support. Through its participation in the Better Work program’s advisory committee, USCIB supported a recommendation to launch the Bangladesh country program, he said.
“Better Work is a stellar example of public-private collaboration with measurable benefits,” Robinson said. “By bringing all stakeholders together in a collaborative framework, it helps bring about sustainable improvements in workplace conditions.”
USCIB represents American business interests internationally, including in the ILO, where it is the U.S. employer constituent, serves on the ILO Governing Body, and leads the U.S. employer delegation to the ILO’s annual International Labor Conference.