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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh needs an appropriate national wage policy

What has been achieved in the RMG industry should also happen in other industries

Update : 05 Mar 2024, 08:56 PM

Bangladesh must formulate and implement an appropriate national wage policy on forecasting and comprehending inflation, as well as competitive pricing and wages, experts said at a program on Tuesday.

Tuomo Poutiainen, country director of International Labour Organization (ILO) for Bangladesh, said the country should also figure out, discuss, and establish a proper national wage system.

Moreover, he also said that the ILO has been attempting to include additional textile factories in its Better Work initiative by applying the international level of compliance in 457 firms.

He advocated for advancing social discourse and safeguarding workers through the modernization of insurance protection programs.

He was speaking as a panel discussant at the 5th edition of Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF), organized by the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) in partnership with Better Work, ILO, and IFC in the capital.

He also said that what has been achieved in the RMG industry should also happen in other industries.

Bangladesh should focus on creating similar opportunities, workplaces and the type of competitiveness so that Bangladesh can be proud, he added.

Miran Ali, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said that the apparel industry has overcome structural, electrical, and fire safety issues.

“Bangladesh's readymade garment (RMG) sector has safer working conditions than many other countries,” he said, adding that the distrust between manufacturers and trade unions must be removed through proper discussion.

Amirul Haque Amin, president of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) said that the workers’ protection is also needed to be protected when the companies are making profit.

“We are always responsible towards our workplace, though sometimes there are problems,” he added.

Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, vice-president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said that Bangladesh is the global champion in green garment factories and the sector was now on the right path.

However, not only the international clothing retailers and brands, but also end-consumers should also pay more for apparel items sourced from the country to show responsible business behavior, he also said.

He also urged the formation of a central trade union for sustainable business.

Hazera Khatun, joint secretary to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, said for improving  product diversification and technologies for better outputs in the sector.

Md Khorshid Alam, executive director of Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority, Avijit Chowdhury, executive member of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority also spoke at the panel discussion.

Inauguration

In the opening plenary, Charles Whiteley, ambassador and head of delegation, delegation of the EU to Bangladesh, said that the RMG sector is facing significant challenges in decarbonization efforts, circular economy challenges, maintaining international labor standards, and navigating uncertain global supply chains.

“While safety and labor states have improved dramatically since the Rana Plaza collapse, there are still problems. So, more work needs to be done with an eye to accessing the GSP+ that should happen after 2029,” he added.

Regarding due diligence, he said that member states of the EU already have due diligence provisions and that will ensure that there isn't regulatory fragmentation.

But in the context of harsh economic times, how much an ethical consumer is willing to pay further for better labor standards and better environmental compliance remains a question, he added.

Salman F Rahman, private industry and investment adviser to the prime minister, said that in the last 10 years, Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in improving the conditions.

A lot of companies are now investing in manmade fabric (MMF.) The global market for MMF is much more than that for cotton. Now there is usage of recycled yarn as a lot of investment has been made in the recycling sector, he also said.

Bangladesh can be a global recycle hub both for the post and pre-production items, he added.

Mostafiz Uddin, founder and CEO of BAE, made the welcome speech.

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