The Obama Administration released its Bangladesh Action Plan 2013
Friday, calling for government inspections and other oversight as steps to prevent another catastrophic disaster in the region's garment factories.
The plan is a comprehensive reaction to the safety and security breakdowns that lead to the death of 1,000 workers in an April 24 garment factory collapse. A factory fire elsewhere in the region killed 112 people in November.
The action plan includes increasing sanctions for labor violations, starting a complaint system for workers, stopping the harassment of labor unions and activists, and reporting the outcome of union registrations in a public forum.
The Obama Administration has said proper implementation of the action plan could result in the restoration of the trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences; Bangladesh's benefits were suspended on June 27.
“The administration is making this action plan public as a means to reinforce and support the efforts of all international stakeholders to promote improved worker rights and worker safety in Bangladesh,” according to a statement from the Office of the United States Trade Representative. “On the basis of this action plan, the United States looks forward to continuing to work with Bangladesh on the actions it needs to take in relation to potential reinstatement of GSP benefits.”
Specifically, the action plan focuses on government inspections by requiring a plan to increase the number of inspectors in the area, improve the training of inspectors and expand their resources; ramping up fines for non-compliance; creating a database of factories and their inspection results; and establishing a complaint mechanism. To improve workers’ rights, the plan would enact labor law reforms associated with collective bargaining; register non-governmental labor organizations; and develop a training program for those who oversee workers’ issues.
The U.S. has also officially aligned itself with the European Union’s sustainability compact with Bangladesh, which was entered into on July 8. The agreement calls for continuous improvement in safety and labor rights.
Finally, the government is also urging retailers to take separate steps to ensure the safety and security of the Bangladesh garment industry. On July 11, seventeen retailers banded together, with the help of the Bipartisan Policy Center, to create the Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative. The initiative focuses on factory inspections, a common safety standards and the airing of workers’ grievances.
“The administration looks forward to continuing its engagement with the Government of Bangladesh and all stakeholders,” according to the statement, “in order to effect positive change for Bangladeshi workers and to help ensure that the recent tragedies we have witnessed do not recur.”
reported on the shipper's side of the evolving Bangladesh story in "Safer Sourcing
." In the June article, Panalpina's Mattias Praetorius said a safer, more secure Bangladesh garment industry is in everybody's best interest.
“We have a joint responsibility as an industry to even work harder on our compliance programs and make sure that measures are taken to prevent the kind of situations that came up (in Bangladesh),” he said. - Jon Ross