Here is a link to the July 19th statement by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, USTR and State Dept. about conditions expected of factories in Bangladesh – http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/ilab/ILAB20131494.htm.

Full implementation is necessary for Generalized System of Preferences benefits to be reinstated by the U.S. While not all products originating in Bangladesh will benefit from GSP’s duty free treatment, certainly major U.S. brand holders can be expected to insist many/most of these provisions be implemented before feeling their brands are adequately protected upon returning to Bangladesh to manufacture their products. GSP expired yesterday, July 31, 2013. A proposed for renewal is pending in Congress but one Member has a hold on it for reasons that are somewhat unclear.

There are a number of topics in the U.S. proposals all geared to safer working conditions, but the one of most interest to the fashion industry is that dealing with ready made garments/knitwear which calls for Bangladesh officials to:

  • Enact and implement, in consultation with the ILO, labor law reforms to address key concerns related to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
  • Continue to expeditiously register unions that present applications that meet administrative requirements, and ensure protection of unions and their members from anti-union discrimination and reprisal.
  • Publicly report information on the status and final outcomes of individual union registration applications, including the time taken to process the applications and the basis for denial if relevant, and information on collective bargaining agreements concluded.
  • Register non-governmental labor organizations that meet administrative requirements, including the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and Social Activities for the Environment (SAFE). Drop or expeditiously resolve pending criminal charges against labor activists to ensure workers and their supporters do not face harassment or intimidation. Advance a transparent investigation into the murder of Aminul Islam and report on the findings of this investigation.
  • Publicly report on the database/matrix identified above on anti-union discrimination or other unfair labor practice complaints received and labor inspections completed, including information on factories and locations, status of investigations, violations identified, fines and sanctions levied, remediation of violations, and the names of the lead inspectors.   Develop and implement mechanisms, including a training program for industrial police officers who oversee the RMG sector on workers’ freedom of association and assembly, in coordination with the ILO, to prevent harassment, intimidation and violence against labor activists and unions.

Other topics in the proposal cover: Government Inspections for Labor, Fire and Building Standards; Export Processing Zones; and the Shrimp Processing Sector. All are designed to lift labor standards and worker safety in Bangladesh.