Major ILO programme aims to make Bangladesh garment industry safer

The US$24m programme has been developed with government, workers and employers in Bangladesh, in response to a number of accidents that have hit the country’s ready-made garment industry.

Press release | 22 October 2013
From Left to Right: Mr Gerben Sjoerd de Jong, H.E. Ambassador of the Netherlands in Bangladesh; Mr Abul Kalam Azad, Secretary, Economic Relations Division (ERD) GoB; Mr Srinivas Reddy, Director, ILO Country Office for Bangladesh; Mr Robert W. Gibson, H.E. the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh
DHAKA - The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have launched a USD $24.21 million initiative – including a new Better Work programme - aimed at improving working conditions in the ready-made garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh.

The three-and-a-half year initiative, ‘Improving Working Conditions in the Ready-Made Garment Sector’ - (RMGP) focuses on minimizing the threat of fire and building collapse in ready-made garment factories and on ensuring the rights and safety of workers.

It has been developed in collaboration with government, employers’ and workers’ representatives in response to a number of industrial accidents in the sector, including the Rana Plaza building collapse in April in which more than 1,100 workers died.

“ILO has played a long-term role in Bangladesh, with extensive involvement in the RMG sector prior to the Tazreen Fashions fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse,” said ILO Deputy-Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships, Mr. Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo. “This programme will provide support in implementing the National Tripartite Plan of Action on fire safety and structural integrity. Successful implementation of the programme will ensure better working conditions and safety for the ready-made garment workers in Bangladesh.”

Mr. Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of Bangladesh stressed, “The Government has initiated some substantive works on occupational safety and health for the ready-made garment sector workers. I would like to acknowledge my gratitude to the development partners who have provided support in this initiative.”

“The Government has acted as a facilitator with an eager helping hand toward the garment industry. Now we have been joined by the goodwill of the buyers of garments and our development partners in our effort to ensure safety and security of factories and security and welfare of the labourers,” said Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Finance. “I hope that the project on ‘Improving Working conditions in the Ready-Made Garment Sector’ will definitely make significant contribution towards enduring safe and better working condition in Ready-Made Garment sector in Bangladesh,” he added.

The United Kingdom and the Netherlands are jointly contributing USD $15 million to the programme. The ILO is also mobilising further resources.

The RMG programme will provide technical support for building and fire safety assessments; strengthen and support labour, fire and buildings inspections; build occupational safety and health awareness, capacity and systems and provide rehabilitation and skills training for the victims of the disasters at Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions( where 112 workers died in a fire in November 2012).

“Rana Plaza and Tazreen became the symbols of what is wrong in the RMG sector. Now Bangladesh, supported by the international community, has the chance to get it right. The Netherlands supports this ILO programme because it contains all the crucial elements to make the garment sector safe and sustainable. For us this is a perfect example of using aid to promote responsible trade,” said Mr Gerben Sjoerd de Jong, H.E. Ambassador of the Netherlands in Bangladesh.

Ms. Sarah Cook, Head of DFID in Bangladesh said, “The sustainability of the ready-made garment industry has a pivotal role to play in Bangladesh's continued social and economic development. This programme is a key part of the UK's approach to help ensure safe working conditions and improved productivity in the sector.” H.E. the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Mr. Robert W Gibson signed the project document on behalf of his government.

The new project compliments other initiatives to improve safety in RMG factories such as the Sustainability Compact adopted by the European Union, Bangladesh government and United States, and supported by the ILO; the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh which comprises global unions, brands and retailers; and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety which brings together North American retailers and brands.

“There is a deepening convergence of interests – from the global community and Bangladesh to work together in supporting our RMG industry: least for supporting lives and livelihoods of four million of our people involved with the industry or, for all-encompassing women empowerment,” said Dr. Dipu Moni, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This Programme builds on ongoing ILO interventions and compliments the Fire Safety, Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and Labour Relations initiatives funded by the US Department of Labor and the Kingdom of Norway.

As part of the new programme the ILO and the International Finance Corporation also announced the launch of a Better Work programme in Bangladesh. This will complement the RMG programme by implementing factory-level activities to improve compliance with national labour laws and respect for international core labour standards while promoting the competitiveness of participating factories.

Better Work Bangladesh is a partnership with government, employers, workers, international buyers and other relevant stakeholders, to promote sustainable change in the ready-made garment sector by helping factories comply with labour laws and building the capacity for labour administration and industrial relations. In the spirit of this partnership, the Government of Bangladesh and Better Work have agreed to link continuation of the programme to progress being made on specific commitments, as laid out in a “Framework for Continuous Improvement.” Such progress on the Framework will be reviewed annually by Better Work, in cooperation with the Government.


For more information, please contact:

Hasina Begum, or Abdullah Al Muyid, email:; mob: +88 01713 068384

Key partners of the RMG project include, Ministry of Labour and Employment ; Ministry of Housing and Public Works; Ministry of Home Affairs, National Tripartite Committee on Fire and Building Safety; Dhaka Development Authority (RAJUK); Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET); Department of Fire Service and Civil Defence; Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA); Bangladesh Knitwear Manufactures and Exporters Association (BKMEA); Bangladesh Employer’s Federation (BEF); National Coordination Committee for Worker’s Education (NCCWE); IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC)

Better Work Bangladesh will be funded by the governments of Switzerland and the United States, and through the RMG programme by the governments of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The Better Work global programme is funded by the governments of Australia, the Netherlands and Switzerland