Dhaka Washington to sign deal on uniform compliance in RMG


The US has come forward to address the country's labour issues in export-oriented readymade garment (RMG) industry and bring uniformity in compliance requirements of foreign buyers under a proposed 'Better Work Program (BWP)'.
The programme will be coordinated jointly by International Finance Corporation (IFC) and International Labor Organisation (ILO), which will be supported by multi-donor efforts later, officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and Ministry of Commerce said.
An agreement will be signed between Dhaka and Washington soon to implement the BWP in the RMG sector, a top MoFA official said.
Besides, a tripartite agreement will also be signed between the government, BGMEA and ILO/IFC to initiate the programme in the country, the official added.
The local major stakeholders -- Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and trade union leaders of the sector -- have supported the move of the US, the largest export destination of Bangladeshi apparel.
The US Department of Labor has recently submitted a proposal on the issue to MoFA. Based on the proposal, the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) organised a meeting last week to seek cooperation from relevant ministries and stakeholders, it is learnt.
"Both the government and stakeholders accepted the US proposal of BWP in the garment sector, which will serve the purposes of exporters, buyers and labourers as the approach will improve the labour compliance and competitiveness in RMG sector," a top MoC official said.
"The comprehensive formula of BWP is a solution to all stakeholders of RMG under one umbrella."
A meeting was held recently at the MoC with representatives from different government ministries, workers leaders, BGMEA and BKMEA to a comprehensive discussion on the issue.
BGMEA leaders said they have long been tormented by compliance and stringent auditing requirements of buyers, which are often different from buyer to buyer causing hassle and extra costs for garment owners.
"The BWP will ensure compliance requirements of both labour and buyers. We support the move," Md. Shafiul Islam (Mohiuddin), Second  Vice-President, BGMEA, told the FE on Thursday.
'The programme introduced in Vietnam, Jordan, Lesotho and Haiti has resulted in establishment of good image for the RMG industries of the countries concerned as foreign buyers are assured of compliances by the suppliers."
A uniform compliance if finalised by major donors and ILO, the global buyers will be satisfied and will easily rely on sourcing from Bangladesh, Mohiuddin said.
Bangladesh exported RMG worth$12.35 billion in fiscal 2008-2009 with the total value of exports to the US recording at $3.6 billion, according to the statistics of Export Promotion Bureau.
The proposal of US Labor Department said the BWP if implemented in the RMG sector of Bangladesh it would benefit workers, buyers and exporters.
"In Bangladesh, expected benefits could include improvement of compliance with labor standards and safety laws, improved reputation of the Bangladesh RMG sector with international buyers and consumers, reduction in the number of audits, achievement of labor peace, and improvement in productivity and quality to help ensure that the RMG sector remains competitive," reads the proposal of the US Labor Department.
"Trading partners such as the United States and international buyers increasingly expect compliance with labor laws and international labor standards in traded sectors. At the same time, it is in the interest of Bangladesh to improve labor compliance because it contributes to broad-based economic development and social stability."
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