Major New Programme to Boost Social Dialogue and Industrial Relations in the Bangladesh RMG Sector

A new programme launched by the Government of Bangladesh 11 December aims to improve workplace relations in the ready-made garment sector by enhancing dialogue between the government, employers and workers

ILO Director General Guy Ryder addresses the opening
The Promoting Social Dialogue and Harmonious Industrial Relations in the Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment Industry project is funded by the governments of Sweden and Denmark and implemented by the International Labour Organization in collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh, employers, and trade unions. Running until March 2021, the initiative will develop dialogue mechanisms between employers and workers, particularly at workplace level as a means of preventing and resolving disputes. It will also work to strengthen conciliation and arbitration mechanisms so that they are more credible, trusted and transparent.

With its focus on strengthening social dialogue and constructive dispute resolution, this project provides a defining opportunity for Bangladesh to achieve its social and economic transformation goals, through partnership and inclusion."

Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
Md. Mujibul Haque, Honourable State Minister, Ministry of Labour and Employment said, “The Government of Bangladesh is fully committed to fostering better workplace relations. This important project, through its core focus on improving industrial relations through social dialogue, will benefit every industry across Bangladesh.”

The project will be initially piloted in the RMG sector, with gradual scaling up within the sector. However, the impact of the project and particularly that of the dispute resolution mechanism will cover all other sectors. Through the project, improved dialogue will be fostered between trade unions and employers in at least 150 unionised enterprises. This will be achieved by developing social dialogue skills and expertise of both managers and union representatives. Workplace cooperation mechanisms and capacity of unions and employers will also be boosted in 350 non-unionised factories, while practical grievance handling procedures will be developed in each of the 500 participating factories.

A key focus of the project will be on enhancing the grievance handling capacity, procedures and mechanisms of the Department of Labour (DoL). This will include specialised training for 15-20 DoL officials to create a national pool of conciliators. An independent pool of arbitrators will also be established. In addition, Workers’ Resource Centres will be established to support capacity building for unions and to help them deal with dispute situations.

The project contributes to the Global Deal, an important new Swedish initiative promoting social dialogue internationally. The Global Deal was launched in September 2016, at the UN Headquarters in New York, in the presence of the Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Speaking at the launch Ambassador Johan Frisell, Embassy of Sweden said, “This programme shows how the Global Deal initiative can translate into concrete action at country level. Functioning social dialogue means both ensuring labour rights and securing long-term business.

Danish Undersecretary for Centre for Global Development and Cooperation Morten Jespersen said, “This project epitomises Denmark’s commitment to shared growth in Bangladesh and it will further constructive partnership between government, employers and workers through social dialogue.”

A number of speakers at the event highlighted the importance of ensuring that emphasis is placed on the gender dimension of social dialogue, in view of the majority of workers in the RMG industry being female.

The project will take place with the full commitment and participation of the Department of Labour (DoL), Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE); Bangladesh Employers Federation (BEF), Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), National Coordination Committee for Workers Education (NCCWE) and the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC).

Salahuddin Kasem Khan, President, Bangladesh Employers’ Federation said, “The creation of effective arbitration and conciliation systems will be a major step toward the development of a more mature industrial relations environment for Bangladesh that will benefit employers and workers alike.”

Md. Siddiqur Rahman, President, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association said, “Bangladesh has already achieved significant progress with regards to workplace safety and is becoming a role model for the world. Similarly we are committed to setting an example by creating harmonious industrial relations in the Bangladesh apparel sector. In this regard, we welcome this project and will work together for effective social dialogue in the sector.”

A. H. Aslam Sunny, First Vice-President, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association said, “Industrial relations mechanisms have been unable keep pace with the rapid growth of the RMG sector. This initiative will help create a firm and modern foundation upon which the industry will be able to grow further. In this connection, the target of exporting some $31.5 billion from the knitwear sector by 2030 is poignant.”

Shah Md. Abu Zafar, Chairman, National Coordination Committee for Workers Education said, “There is an urgent need to create better dialogue between workers and employers in the RMG sector. Workers have for too long been at a disadvantage when it came to negotiations however this initiative will help put us on a more equal footing.”

Kutubuddin Ahmed, Secretary General, IndustriAll Bangladesh Council said, “The Worker Resource Centres established by this initiative will be a valuable addition to the industrial relations landscape and help trade unions operate more effectively. This project will also eventually strengthen social dialogue for the betterment of workers as well as sustainable industrialisation.”

Also taking part in the launch held at the Pan Pacific Sonargoan Hotel were: Tomoko Nishimoto, Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, ILO; Mikail Shipar, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE); Khondaker Mostan Hossain, Joint Secretary, MoLE; Shirin Akhter MP, President, Jatiyo Sramik Jote Bangladesh; and Rubana Huq, Managing Director, Mohammadi Group.

For more information please contact Steve Needham Tel 01787 680995 or at email