Workplace safety: Call for greater coordination among stakeholders
Tribune Report

The call emerged from a discussion in New York on Tuesday

National and international stakeholders have been urged to forge a greater coordination among them to ensure sustainable improvement in workplace safety in Bangladesh.

The call emerged from a discussion in New York on Tuesday, according to a message received here Wednesday.

The NYU Stern Center on Business and Human Rights brought together senior government officials from Bangladesh, local manufacturers, senior officials from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Export Association (BGMEA), and representatives of Bangladesh civil society and workers’ organisations to discuss workplace safety and the future of the garment industry in Bangladesh.

Participants were joined by major US and European retailers, several Western governments, key intergovernmental organisations, and outside experts. NYU Stern Dean Peter Henry, Chair of Stern’s Board of Overseers William R. Berkley and NYU Stern Professor Michael Posner opened the meeting.

Lew Kaden, former Vice Chairman of Citigroup, moderated the discussion. This was the Center’s first major convening since its launch in March 2013. The meeting was organised by Sarah Labowitz who travelled on the Center’s behalf to Bangladesh in July.

Based in part on comments and suggestions made at this meeting, NYU Stern’s Center will produce a report on workplace safety in the context of building a sustainable garment sector in Bangladesh that continues to contribute to the country’s economic growth and protects the rights of workers who are at the heart of the industry. The report will be released in the coming months. The Center will convene a follow-up meeting in Dhaka early 2014.

The meeting focused on four broad topics related to workplace safety in Bangladesh: the economics of the sourcing relationship between buyers, suppliers, and subcontractors; the role of Western governments and intergovernmental organisations in enhancing workplace safety and worker empowerment; the regulatory landscape for the garment sector; and three recent efforts by the government, international brands, and the International Labor Organisation (ILO) to fill governance gaps.

Representatives of each of these three initiatives the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, and the National Tripartite Plan of Action were at the table.

“Meeting at Stern encouraged a frank discussion of the challenges and opportunities in Bangladesh. It underscored the need for greater coordination among the various national and international actors, for greater transparency and for a longer term look at the sustainability of the current sourcing model,” Labowitz said.

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