Deputy Director General Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) urged international buyers to continue doing business with Bangladesh.
“I do believe there is a sense of urgency. I do believe we have to act now. I do believe by doing so we have to call for the international buyers to continue doing business with Bangladesh,” said the ILO’s deputy director general.
He was speaking at a press briefing held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, where a joint statement by tripartite partners (government, employers and workers) was also issued to the media.
The ILO top representative was in Dhaka to discuss labour safety issues with all stakeholders following the building collapse in Savar, where over 500 people died and over 2,500 were injured.
Houngbo said it is time for Bangladesh to act strongly and for international buyers to refrain from restrictive measures such as boycotts or sanctions.
Terming the last few months as “quite difficult;” Houngbo said, “We need actions, not words. We must move forward.”
“The train has to leave the station. The gates are down, the lights are flashing, but we got to see the train leaving,” he cautioned, adding: “We need political will and commitment to address the problems.”
All decisions in this regard have to be made or confirmed by the government, he stated, “There is a sense of urgency in addressing all those issues.”
About building inspections, he said it is not possible to inspect all the buildings in just two weeks. “It will be time-consuming. Let’s be pragmatic.”
At the press briefing Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque was also present, he said this is a turning point in Bangladesh’s history.
The Secretary of Foreign Affairs said, “There is a convergence of interests for bringing changes in the (RMG) industry,” but he also cautioned it was not the time for playing a blame-game.
While Labour and Employment Secretary Mikhail Shipper said the government is committed to addressing problems in the industry.
The tripartite partners’ joint statement stated they (the partners) and the ILO have agreed to develop an action plan for the betterment of the whole industry.
It clarified a labour law reform package is expected to be submitted to parliament in the next session, and the recruitment of 200 factory inspectors will be completed within six months.
The statement declared those responsible for the tragic events that occurred in the last six months would be made accountable, stating: “Unless lawful actions are taken at the earliest, more lives may be lost in preventable industrial accidents.”
Adding: “The tripartite partners and the ILO acknowledge that the challenges are daunting but believe that if international buyers and brands take increased responsibility for improving working conditions and safety and health and with the active support of development partners and donors, safety can be and must be improved in all workplaces throughout Bangladesh.”
European Union Ambassador to Bangladesh William Hanna, US Ambassador Dan Mozena, Canadian High Commissioner Heather Cruden, United Nations Resident Coordinator Neil Walker, and BGMEA President Atiqul Haque along with other business leaders were also present at the press conference.