Desk Report: The European Union (EU), where about 62 percent of Bangladesh’s apparel shipments go to, is impressed with the progress made in enhancing workplace safety in garment factories in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse, according to Star report, said its ambassador to the country.
“What has been achieved five years down the line is commendable and impressive,” said Rensje Teerink, the EU ambassador in Bangladesh, after a meeting with Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed at the secretariat yesterday.
Teerink called on the minister at his office before he leads a 21-member Bangladeshi delegation to the fourth review meeting of the Sustainability Compact on June 24 in Brussels.
The Sustainability Contact is an ILO-brokered agreement that Bangladesh had signed with the EU in August in 2013 committing to responsible business behavior. Later, the US and Canada joined the compact to oversee the safety progress in the country’s garment sector. There are some issues that still remain to be addressed in the Sustainability Compact, Teerink said.
After the Rana Plaza building collapse, the Accord, the Alliance and the government’s engineers have been inspecting and remediating the garment factory buildings.
Nearly 90 percent of the remediation works in the associate factories of the Accord and the Alliance has been completed so far.
Other than amending the labor law and the EPZ law, the government has also appointed an adequate number of labor inspectors and reduced the percentage of required workers to form trade unions to 20 percent from 30 percent, Ahmed said. “As a result, the ILO is satisfied with Bangladesh.”
After the Rana Plaza building collapse, there has not been a major industrial accident in the country, he said, adding that the Accord and the Alliance said less than 2 percent of the garment factories in Bangladesh are vulnerable.
Meanwhile, the EU will continue its duty-free benefit to Bangladesh under the GSP plus scheme even after graduation to the developing country bracket. Bangladesh is a strong player among the 49 least-developed countries that are eligible for trade privilege to the EU, accounting for the highest rate of utilization last year: 65.7 percent.
The country exported goods worth $18.68 billion to the EU last fiscal year, which was 54.57 percent of the total exports, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau. Of the amount, apparel accounted for $17.15 billion.