Better Work Bangladesh takes stock of progress and identifies way forward

Better Work Bangladesh held its first stakeholders and buyers forum in Dhaka on the 6 and 7 March 2016 during which it took stock of progress made and discussed the future direction and activities of the initiative

Stakeholder representatives discuss Better Work progress and challenges
The events saw dialogue take place on the Better Work programme and its partnerships, achievements and challenges as it seeks to improve working conditions and competitiveness in the Bangladesh ready-made garment sector.

Taking part in the two day event were some 200 members of government, development partners, employers and workers organizations as well as buyers.

Speaking at the opening of the stakeholders’ forum today, Mr. Md. Mujibul Haque, Honorable State Minister Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of Bangladesh said, “The Bangladesh readymade garment sector is the driving force of the nation’s economy. We welcome Better Work’s approach of seeking to boost industry competitiveness while at the same time improving the lives of workers.”

The Better Work programme is a partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) that currently operates in eight countries. The objective of Better Work is to improve working conditions and promote competitiveness in the global garment industry. It does so by promoting compliance with international labour standards and national law in global supply chains as a basis for building socially responsible export strategies, and by enhancing enterprise-level economic and social performance.

Better Work commenced its operations in Bangladesh in 2014, becoming fully operational in 2015. It currently works with 96 factories which employ over 183,000 workers with a plan to expand to 200 factories by the end of 2016 and to continue to recruit additional factories in subsequent years. In all, 18 international buyer partners are currently sourcing from Better Work Bangladesh factories.

Speaking at the event Srinivas Reddy, ILO Country Director said, “In just a short time Better Work Bangladesh has gained excellent support from government, workers and employers alike. It is now working closely with almost 100 factories and we look forward to deepening and widening this engagement in years to come.”

Meanwhile Wendy Jo Werner, IFC Country Director said, “Through Better Work we seek to improve working conditions and competiveness in the Bangladesh readymade garment sector. This will contribute to greater resilience to global economic trends as well as increasing demands from buyers and customers.”

Examples of Better Work activities in Bangladesh include assessments and advisory visits conducted to develop compliance improvement plans. Training is taking place on supervisory skills, financial literacy, industrial relations and workplace cooperation. Support has been provided to help build capacity of government labour inspectors. In addition, draft guidelines have also been developed for forming Safety Committees in coordination with the Accord and Alliance.

Taking part in the two day event held at the Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden Hotel were: Mr. Md. Mujibul Haque, Honorable State Minister Ministry of Labour and Employment Khondaker Mostan Hossain, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment; Syed Ahmed, (MoLE); Inspector General (Additional Secretary), Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments , MoLE; Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, US Ambassador; Wendy Jo Werner, IFC Country Manager; Srinivas B Reddy, ILO Country Director; Sarah Cooke, Head of DFID; Farooq Ahmed, Secretary General, Bangladesh Employers’ Federation; Mahmud Hasan Khan, Vice President, BGMEA; Babul Akhter, Secretary General, IndustriALL Bangladesh Council; Chowdhury Ashiqul Alam, General Secretary, Bangladesh Trade Union Sangha and Member National Coordination Committee for Worker’s Education; Sylvia Zulu, IFC Global Manager SME & Value Chain Solutions; Christoph Fuchs, Head Political, Economic and Cultural Affairs, Embassy of Switzerland; Heather McBride, Deputy Director Planning/Lead Analyst (Development), High Commission of Canada; Mansoor Ahmed, Vice President, BKMEA; Roy Ramesh Chandra, President United Federation of Garments Workers & Former Secretary General, IndustriAll Bangladesh Council; Naimul Ahsan Jewel, Member- Secretary, National Coordination Committee for Worker’s Education.

Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom currently fund the Better Work programme in Bangladesh while the US Department of Labour and Switzerland support the programme in Bangladesh as well as globally.