B’desh needs commitment; social dialogue: ILO

Echoing its DG’s call to translate the horror and regret into urgent actions to prevent further tragedy, visiting ILO Deputy Director General (DDG) Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo said here on Saturday Bangladesh needs a commitment to address the labour rights and safety issues with immediate actions.“(The) first issue isn’t a money issue…(the) first issue is a commitment, is a political commitment…a commitment by all parties…the country needs a permanent social dialogue,” Houngbo told the press at the Foreign Ministry before wrapping up his four-day Bangladesh tour.
The DDG for Field Operations and Partnerships of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said there is a sense of urgency in addressing the issues. “You have to start now…we have to act now. If nothing is done now and then something happens, it’ll be the worst.”
Houngbo, the former Prime Minister of Togo, said passing the law (labour law reform package) in the next session (in Parliament) is a normal business but what he believes assessing the factories (on safety issues) will be challenging one.
Responding to a question about taking responsibility for improving working conditions and safety by the buyers and international brands, the ILO DDG said there is a serious will from the international buyers to contribute.
“I met some of buyers’ representatives during my stay over here and had an informal meeting in Germany. My understanding is that there’s serious will….some of them are doing a lot of things.”
On continuation of doing business with Bangladesh, the ILO DDG said, “I do believe there’s a set of urgencies. I do believe we’ve to act now and we’ve to call for the international buyers to continue doing business with Bangladesh.”
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar, US Ambassador in Dhaka Dan W Mozena, Canadian High Commissioner in Dhaka Heather Cruden, EU Ambassador William Hanna, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh and UNDP Resident Representative Neal Walker, DG, Foreign Ministry, M Shameem Ahsan, BGMEA President M Atiqul Islam, BKMEA first vice president M Hatem and Bangladesh Employers Federation President M Fazul Haque and M Fazlul Azim, MP, were, among others, present.
Earlier, a joint statement by tripartite partners was presented at the press conference.
According to the statement, all active export-oriented readymade garment factories in Bangladesh will be assessed by the end of 2013 and the tripartite partners called on the ILO to assist in the mobilisation of the technical and financial resources required undertaking the assessment.
Meanwhile, the government will recruit 200 additional inspectors within six months.
The action plan taken by the tripartite partners will include a follow-up mechanism to measure in six months’ time the progress made in the implementation of the steps announced today.
“Safety must be given the highest consideration by the government, employers and workers in Bangladesh. Those responsible for the tragic events that have occurred over the past six months shall be held accountable,” the joint statement said.
The tripartite partners and the ILO acknowledge that the challenges are daunting but believe that if international buyers and brands take increased responsibility for improving working conditions and safety and health and with active support of development partners and donors, safety can and must be improved in all workplaces throughout Bangladesh.
The four-member high-profile delegation, led by Houngbo, arrived here on Wednesday morning to discuss labour issues with the authorities concerned. UNB

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