The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Bangladeshi government have launched a programme to improve working conditions in the country’s garment sector.
The ILO says the new initiative has been brought in following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in April which killed more than 1,000 workers.
The programme has been welcomed by the international aid charity Oxfam, who says efforts toward improving workers conditions are heading in the right direction.
The three and a half year long initiative will focus on improving the ready-made-garment (RMG) sector.
Srinivas Reddy, the director of the ILO in Bangladesh, says the initiative will compliment a legally binding safety accord that was signed by Western retailers and that there are unprecedented commitments to change in the garment sector.
“This program will ensure that all of these efforts are coordinated in a way that leads to sustainable change and will have long term impact on the industry for the betterment of the safety and working conditions,” he said.
Despite the commitment demand for cheap labour continues and with it the harsh working conditions.
Earlier this month a fire inside a garment factory near the capital Dhaka killed at least eight workers.
Australian retail giants Big W and Target admitted to sourcing fabric for its clothes from the factory.
Just last week Big W’s parent company Woolworths finally signed the safety accord following months of pressure.
Daisy Gardener, the Corporate Accountability and Fair Trade Advisor with Oxfam Australia, says that the large Australian companies have been coming under pressure from customers.
Woolworths received thousands of letters asking them to join the accord and hundreds of Australians wrote on Woolies’ Facebook page.
“We really think that Australians do connect to the fact that these clothes are being made in Bangladesh that we’re wearing everyday and we do hope that Australians will continue to ask companies that haven’t joined the accord, like Best and Less and Pacific Brands, Rivers and the Just Group, who own Just Jeans.
We’re really hoping that Australians will keep up the pressure and ask those companies to sign onto the accord as well.”
The government initiative will make sure the factories that don’t fall under the accord will be inspected for structural integrity and safe operating practices.
Workers will be taught how to operate machines safely and every factory with more than 50 workers will also need a safety committee.
An important part of the initiative is providing rehabilitation for disabled workers who have been injured at work during the past.