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Gap, ILO step in to improve industrial relations in garment factories

FE Report | July 03, 2019 00:00:00

Gap, a US-based apparel retailer, and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have jointly launched a new initiative to improve industrial relations in its listed garment factories in Bangladesh.

The ILO's flagship Better Work Bangladesh (BWB) Programme and the ILO's Social Dialogue and Industrial Relations project will jointly implement the activities under the initiative, according to a statement.

The initiative will help build the capacity of factory management, compliance staff, union members and workplace committee members through providing training.

Training would be given on a range of topics, including freedom of association, collective bargaining, international labour standards, HR management, communications and negotiation techniques, as well as increase the understanding of the Bangladesh Labour Act.

This joint initiative is welcomed in Bangladesh, given that the garment industry is one of the main contributors to economic growth and is the country's main export industry, comprising over 83 per cent of total export revenue annually in 2017 and 2018, the statement said.

While notable progress in industrial relations has been made in recent years, both workers and employers in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector acknowledged challenges with regards to industrial relations, particularly at the enterprise level, it added.

"Bangladesh has gradually been transforming towards a rapid economic expansion driven by its industrial sector," said Zillur Rahman, Additional Secretary, and Member, Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA), at the launching ceremony of the initiative at a city hotel recently.

Bangladesh government is highly committed to ensuring labour rights and harmonious industrial relations to make such expansion and growth work for all, he noted.

"This initiative is a very important addition to the work of the ILO, trade unions, employers and brands to strengthen social dialogue and industrial relations in Bangladesh's garment industry," said Tuomo Poutiainen, country director of ILO Bangladesh.

The effort to improve working conditions and labour standards is a shared responsibility, said Keith White, executive vice president of Loss Prevention and Global Sustainability at Gap Inc.

"We believe that improvements in social dialogue and industrial relations in Bangladesh have the potential to bring about real change for workers and employers alike, and that this project can contribute to the increased resilience and stability of Bangladesh's garment sector," added the GAP official.

The launching event was also addressed by Asif Ibrahim, director of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Mostafa Jamal Pasha, director of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), Sukkur Mahmud, representative of National Coordination Committee on Workers Education (NCCWE), Kamran T Rahman, president of Bangladesh Employers' Federation (BEF), and Md Giasuddin, Chairman, IndustriAll Bangladesh Council (IBC).

The representatives of the employers' organisations highlighted their commitment to strengthening social dialogue and industrial relations, acknowledging that sustaining the growth in the country's garment sector largely depends on the welfare of the workers.

The trade union representatives said sound industrial relations can deepen trust and make it a lot easier to resolve conflicts in the workplace.

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