European MPs overwhelmed with RMG sector’s progress

Great job done, they say ahead of May 18 review

29 Mar 2017, 22:33

Online Desk

Dhaka: European Parliament members on Wednesday acknowledged the massive progress Bangladesh has made in its readymade garment (RMG) sector saying the country can be a leading nation if it can fulfill the standards in human and labour rights.

“You’ve a big opportunity to become a leading nation. There’s a big chance and I think you’re on a good track to use this chance,” European Parliament member Norbert Neuser told reporters before wrapping up their three-day visit here.

The remarks came when Bangladesh is preparing for the annual Sustainability Compact review to be held in May 18 in Dhaka and the annual International Labour Conference of the ILO in June in Geneva.

The Sustainability Compact was launched on July 8, 2013 to promote continuous improvements in labour rights and factory safety in the RMG and knitwear industry in Bangladesh.

“I think I have to change (the impression I had about BD) in a strong way. You’ve done a great job,” Norbert Neuser said adding that it was his first visit to Bangladesh and he was very curious what happened and what was done after the Rana Plaza incident.

The lawmaker having huge experience with other developing countries said they saw lots of ‘really good progress’.

“When I’m back (home) I can tell good stories about your country, especially the progress made in the RMG sector. It’s clear that there’s a lot of investment coming from your enterprises, not coming from the brands,” Norbert said adding that he will convey these Bangladesh stories to his colleagues.

Another member of the four-member delegation, Linda McAvan, said, “I think what I’ll take back…lots of things happened since 2013. We saw lots of progress in terms of workplace safety.”

Leader of the delegation Arne Lietz said the full implementation of the Sustainability Compact, in their view, is very important.

“We felt a readiness and good will from all parties to engage in this issue, and are hopeful that this will translate into concrete progress before the May review of the Compact in Dhaka and Geneva ILO conference in mid-June,” he said.

Arne Lietz said as members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the EP, their engagement with Bangladesh, as with other countries, is guided by core values where respect for human rights and labour rights, in particular freedom of association and collective bargaining rank high.

European Union Ambassador in Dhaka Pierre Mayaudon said he is not in a position to tell what could be the conclusion of the annual high-level review of the Sustainability Compact. “We still have several weeks and months in front of us.”

The ILO called on Bangladesh to address four issues -- full alignment of respectively, the EPZ draft law, Bangladesh labour Act, with the UN core Labour Convention modalities for establishing trade unions and right of trade unions to operate freely.

Responding to a question, the delegation leader said terrorism is unfortunately everywhere in the world.

Arne Lietz, however, said their answer to terrorism is having an open democracy and free society. “We believe we have to have equal situation, equal society, equal high social standard.”

He also mentioned that free media, free speech, free civil society could help prevent people from getting radicalised.

Arne Lietz said the garment sector was the focus of their visit as the sector has played an important role in Bangladesh’s economic growth. “We can see that there have been improvements in both buildings and workplace safety since the Rana Plaza tragedy four years back,” he said.

The delegation met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, State Minister for Labour and Employment Md. Mujibul Haque

and BGMEA leaders apart from other stakeholders during their three-day visit.