US urges buyers to collaborate on safety in Bangladesh

The US State Department, Department of Labor, and Office of the US Trade Representative have engaged in talks with US buyers who source garments from Bangladesh.

The discussions focused on US Government engagement to improve worker rights and and working conditions in Bangladesh.

The State Department said it also discussed how the private sector can assist in these efforts.

The talks come after another fatal fire in a Bangladesh apparel factory on Wednesday, May 8, killing eight people. The fire at the Tung Hai Sweater company came just a fortnight after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex, where the death toll has now risen to over 1,000 people.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake, and Special Representative for International Labor Affairs, Barbara Shailor, said the tragedy at Rana Plaza once again underscores the urgent need for government, owners, buyers, and labor organisations to work together to improve safety and the lives of working people in Bangladesh.

“Both the US 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 said.

It called on US buyers to co-operate with each other, 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

The State Department also urged buyers to push for the immediate passage of labor law amendments to form the basis of an International Labor Organization (ILO) and International Finance Corporation Better Work Program.

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