Recently, the CLC wrote to Foreign Minister John Baird, asking him to press the government of Bangladesh to comply with its commitments to respect labour rights and to ensure the safety of garment factories. A new framework for action called the "Sustainability Compact”, was launched with the initial support of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the European Union (EU) and Bangladesh. This framework seeks to prevent further tragedies in the garment industry such as the Rana Plaza collapse.
July 22, 2014
The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
On behalf of the Canadian Labour Congress, I urge you to press the government of Bangladesh to comply with its commitments to respect labour rights and to ensure the safety of garment factories.
Following the industrial disaster at Rana Plaza last year, several governments stepped forward and committed to contribute to efforts aimed at preventing further tragedies in the garment industry in Bangladesh. On July 8, 2013, a comprehensive framework for action, the Sustainability Compact for Continuous Improvements in Labour Rights and Factory Safety in the Ready-Made Garment and Knitwear Industry in Bangladesh (“Sustainability Compact”), was launched with the initial support of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the European Union (EU) and Bangladesh.
Since then, additional governments have announced their support for it. The Sustainability Compact calls on the government of Bangladesh to make a number of legal and practical reforms to ensure respect for labour rights and to improve building and fire safety. At the time, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht made clear that failure to comply with the Sustainability Compact would lead the EU to consider “appropriate action” under the Everything But Arms trade preferences arrangement.
On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Sustainability Compact, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), IndustriALL and UNI Global Union prepared a detailed and critical assessment of the government of Bangladesh’s compliance with its terms (attached). As it clearly demonstrates, little progress has been made on implementing its terms. On several points, the government has completely failed to take action while on others the progress has been limited and long-delayed. The government of Bangladesh’s apparent lack of urgency and purpose is shocking given that four million garment workers depend on the successful implementation of the Sustainability Compact. This situation is completely unacceptable — we cannot allow another industrial disaster to claim the lives of garment workers due to the government’s inaction and manufacturers’ misconduct.
I again urge the government to raise these concerns with the government of Bangladesh, as well as with the brands incorporated and/or doing business in Canada which source garments from factories in Bangladesh. Corporations also have a responsibility to ensure that workers’ rights are fully respected in their supply chains.
I look forward to hearing from you about steps your government will take to ensure that the government of Bangladesh complies in a timely manner with the terms of the Sustainability Compact. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you need any further information.