Today the State Department, the Department of Labor and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative convened a conference call with U.S. buyers in Bangladesh’s garment industry to discuss U.S. Government engagement to improve workers’ rights and working conditions in Bangladesh, and to review how the private sector can assist in these vital ongoing efforts. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake, Jr. and Special Representative for International Labor Affairs Barbara Shailor represented the State Department.
Assistant Secretary Blake and Special Representative Shailor noted that the tragedy at Rana Plaza once again underscores the urgent need for government, owners, buyers, and labor organizations to work together to improve labor safety and the lives of working people in Bangladesh. Both the United States and Bangladesh have a shared interest in ensuring that the growth of Bangladesh’s export sector does not come at the expense of safe and healthy working conditions or fundamental labor rights.
The State Department strongly urged U.S. buyers to coordinate efforts with each other and with the Government of Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA), as well as civil society and labor groups, on factory safety and fire initiatives, including helping pay for independent safety and fire inspectors. They encouraged the buyers to communicate their concerns about labor conditions to the BGMEA and the Bangladeshi Government, and to urge immediate passage of the labor law amendments to lay the basis for the establishment of an International Labor Organization and International Finance Corporation Better Work Program.