Labour, working environment in RMG should adhere to UN’s Guiding Principles

Publish: 8:54 PM, October 9, 2021 | Update: 8:54:PM, October 9, 2021

DHAKA,  – Speakers at a virtual dialogue today said Bangladesh’s RMG sector needs to strengthen its labour and working environment in adherence to the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs) with a view to better handle the post-graduation challenges. Over the past decade, they said the export-oriented RMG sector has made a significant progress in strengthening workplace safety.

In continuation of this journey, the sector needs to focus on human and labour rights issues taking into account the post-LDC graduation requirements. They came up with such remarks at a virtual dialogue organized by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) today in partnership with the Christian Aid in Bangladesh on “Building the RMG Sector in Adherence with the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs)”.

The UNGPs have provided a guideline for the industries on how to improve the labour rights practices in the workplace. Such a guideline will be highly beneficial for the RMG enterprises to better structure social compliances in adherence to international standards. The government agencies will get better understanding on how to facilitate factories in strengthening their labour practices, said a press release. Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD delivered the introductory remarks while Pankaj Kumar, Country Director, Christian Aid Bangladesh, delivered the welcome remarks at the session.

Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, CPD, moderated the session. The keynote presentation at the dialogue was made by Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director of CPD. Dr Moazzem mentioned that this study analysed the level of maturity on UNGPs of RMG enterprises on eight key indicators such as policy commitment; governance and embedding; prioritisation of risks and identification of the salient human rights issues; stakeholder engagement; assessing human rights risks; integration and mitigation measures; tracking; and remedy and grievance mechanisms.

The study highlighted interesting facts which showed that the factories from Dhaka and Gazipur district have better performance in most human rights aspects than factories from Chattogram and Narayanganj. Moreover, enterprises under the membership of BGMEA are found in a better state than those under the membership of BKMEA.

This again reflects a need for removing disparity and exercising equal opportunity for all RMG enterprises. Md Mojibul Haque, Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Labour and Employment shed light on the need for reducing gap between the owners and the workers. Md. Ehsan-E-Elahi, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment re-asserted the need for a coordinated effort-based mechanism. “The garments owners should be more aware of the labour rights and wellbeing,” he said.

He said the government has developed a long-term action plan for the improvement of labour laws and labour-related practices not only in the RMG sector, but also in other sectors. Faruque Hassan, President, BGMEA, put some vital issues on the table, including-adhering to the SDGs, developing a unified code of conduct to avoid the audit fatigue, conducting a comprehensive research in concentration with all the local and global standards, and bringing a positive change through apparel diplomacy and thorough research.

Mohammad Hatem, First Vice-President, BKMEA, highlighted two important issues-first, childcare facilities, and second, corporate social responsibility (CSR) facilities. Vidiya Amrit Khan, Director, BGMEA, Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmmed, Specialist on Worker Activities, ILO, Sharmin Sultana Moushumi, Advocate, Bangladesh High Court, Haroon Ar Rashid, Director, BGMEA spoke, among others, at the dialogue. The session was followed by an open-floor discussion. High-level policy makers, researchers, RMG workers, development practitioners, academics, business leaders, civil society activists, international development partners, and journalists took part at the dialogue.