Press release

Greening warning over Bangladesh factory safety

Momentum must not be lost in the drive to tackle poor safety and labour conditions for workers in the Bangladesh garment sector, International Development Secretary Justine Greening has warned, six months on from the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka that killed more than 1,100 people.

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She set out how new UK support to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) will build on action already taken by brands, factory owners and both the Bangladesh and British governments to improve safety and conditions.

Justine Greening said:

April’s factory collapse took a dreadful toll on people in Bangladesh and galvanised much-needed action on safety. The UK government has already demanded improvements from clothing manufacturers and sent experts to advise on building safety.

Six months on, the UK will now support the ILO to help the Government of Bangladesh, employers and manufacturers make improvements on safety and conditions.

But there is still a long way to go. Everyone needs to continue to work together to maintain momentum and prevent future tragedies.

New UK support of £4.8 million will go towards the ILO’s ‘Improving the Working Conditions in the Ready Made Garment sector in Bangladesh’ programme to improve fire safety and protect workers. It will do this by:

  • bringing together into one coherent system the building and fire safety inspections of the big retailers and those carried out by the Government of Bangladesh
  • launching the new ‘Better Work’ initiative, to improve worker conditions and industrial relations, and to facilitate dialogue at both individual factory and national level
  • carrying out inspections at 1,500 factories not covered under the new big-brand initiatives
  • providing training and increased awareness of occupational health and safety through mass education campaigns
  • providing rehabilitation support for victims of the Rana Plaza collapse and other garment-sector disasters, including training and help with new livelihoods. It will also play a coordinating role in bringing together organisations working with disaster survivors and helping develop the garment sector as a more inclusive employer of people with disabilities.

Notes to editors:

  • The ILO programme ‘Improving the Working Conditions in the Ready Made Garment sector in Bangladesh’ supports the Bangladesh government’s National Action Plan on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity.

  • This was signed by the Government of Bangladesh, garment workers’ representatives and garment employers’/owners’ representatives and will be monitored by the Tripartite Steering Committee composed of these three parties and additional relevant stakeholders.

  • It sets out legislation and policy, administrative and practical activities, as well as the respective partner(s) responsible for the implementation of the activities, and a timeframe for implementation.

  • The Plan brings together the Government of Bangladesh, workers and manufacturers with the aim of achieving real and sustained change that will ensure safe conditions for workers. The ILO programme will also play a coordinating role with the brand initiatives: the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.

What the UK is already doing:

  • In July, International Development Secretary Justine Greening and Minister of State Alan Duncan held a meeting with 20 top British business leaders from the retail industry to discuss how they can work with the government to improve supply chains to ensure clothes are produced responsibly.

  • In September, at the request of the Bangladeshi building regulations agency, the UK sent out three experts, (two from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and one from the Better Regulation Delivery Office), to share their wealth of experience in safe and effective building regulation to help prevent future tragedies and save lives.

  • The UK’s response is focused on all the areas where action is needed: building safety; improving working conditions; and urging buyers to take responsibility for their supply chain from the store right back to the sewing machine.

  • We are supporting the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed, situated near to where the Rana Plaza tragedy took place, where a number of victims are being helped.

  • In June the Minister of State Alan Duncan announced UK support for skills training for 100,000 low-skilled garment and construction workers, to improve overall productivity and help produce higher-value products.

  • Additional funding to the new Trade and Global Value Chains Initiative will make available £1.8m for Bangladesh for partnerships between buyers, factory owners, civil society and others to improve working practices and conditions in the supply chain. This builds on the Responsible and Accountable Garment Sector (RAGS) Challenge Fund which has been supporting projects aimed at improving conditions of vulnerable workers in the ready-made garment (RMG) production sector

  • DFID supports the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), through a Programme Partnership Arrangement that provides core funding to support the organisation’s strategic direction. ETI is a leading alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs working together to improve the lives of workers around the world; ETI played a key role in getting brands to sign up to the new Accord.

Published 24 October 2013