This is a clear indication from the European Union that delaying tactics to implement a roadmap for labour reforms in Bangladesh, especially its garment manufacturing sector will not be entertained any further.
A delegation of the European Parliament on international trade has asked government authorities in Bangladesh to come up with a clear plan to implement its labour roadmap in its entirety. This will be important for any further discussion on trade facilities.
Heidi Hautala, Member of the European Parliament and the head of the visiting delegation said that the implementation of the roadmap was a precondition for any further discussion on trade.
“We want the full and successful implementation of the roadmap as a clear precondition for our further trade relations,” she told journalists at an address at the Dhaka press club on Tuesday, as other Members of the European Parliament at the event nodded in agreement.
The delegation was especially concerned about the prevalence of child labour in the service chain of the garment manufacturing sector. “The EU has a zero-tolerance policy on child labour, and we attach great importance to fully eliminating child labour by 2025,” they said.
The members made it clear that the EU is keenly watching the government’s commitment to the implementation of labour roadmap plan. “The successful implementation of the roadmap will be linked not only to EBA but also to your graduation process and the subsequent potential accession to GSP-plus facility,” a member of the delegation opined.
The EBA is the EU agency tasked with implementing a standard set of rules to regulate and supervise banking across all EU countries. Its aim is to create an efficient, transparent and stable single market in EU banking products.
Enough is enough
This is a clear indication from the European Union that delaying tactics to implement a roadmap for labour reforms in Bangladesh, especially its garment manufacturing sector will not be entertained any further – that enough is enough.
“We note with concern reported delays in putting the labour law and the EPZ Labour Law in full compliance with international standards. Compliance with standards should be ensured for all special economic and processing zones,” said Heidi Hautala.
The delegation also discussed with Bangladeshi officials about the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP +) through which all Bangladeshi exports can enter the EU duty- and quota-free facility.
The EU’s GSP-plus accession gives developing countries a special incentive to pursue sustainable development and good governance. Eligible countries have to implement 27 international conventions on human rights. Again, labour codes stand out among these 27 conventions.
The EU has been fully supportive of this process, Hautala said, explaining that these are two fundamental requirements in order to successfully transition to GSP-plus, it would be urgent to anticipate deadlines for entry into force and to ensure full effective implementation. No delay should be acceptable, she said.
Reply to a query they said, “We also want to highlight that adequate protection of labour rights can only be guaranteed if fundamental human rights are respected. They cannot exist independently from one another. Respect of human rights is also a fundamental condition of GSP-plus accession.”
Earlier in the day, the EU delegation had long-drawn discussions with officials of the Bangladesh government on the country’s status as a beneficiary of the European Union’s ‘Everything But Arms (EBA)’ trade preference scheme. Bangladesh has a special advantage under this scheme, but labour reforms are crucial.
Bangladesh must be proud of its economic development and expected graduation from LDC status and EBA trading which is opening the way for the GSP-plus era, the delegation members said.
But they also said that better working conditions for the labour was important for Bangladesh to sustain its success story.
“EU congratulates Bangladesh on the progress achieved so far and the success story that is representing under the GSP. But as we are now moving to the next step, it is essential to ensure concrete progress and implementation of the required labour standard and workplace environment,” the delegation added.
Though the EU GSP regulation is currently under review, the visiting delegation made it clear the importance the European Parliament attaches to ensuring the effective implementation of GSP conditions with full transparency.
The delegation also voiced their concern about Bangladesh’s latest digital security law – the Digital Security Act, and the consequences it carries for the freedom of expression, notably in the case of journalists.
Civil society must have adequate space for free expression, the delegation members said, hinting at the incidences of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, the delegation members said.