Employers, workers, and the civil society must take initiatives together to ratify the ILO Convention 190 to ensure harassment-free workplaces, experts told a virtual meeting on Wednesday.
They said many positive changes had already happened in various factories, including the garment industry.
Addressing the consultation meeting on workplace harassment and implementation of ILO Convention 190 organised by CARE Bangladesh and Unnayan Shamannay, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Faruque Hassan said the association under the new leadership had taken various measures to ensure harassment-free workplaces.
He said the activities required to eliminate all types of harassment in the workplace were underway.
It is true that if workers are treated well, the industry will do better, he said.
As a recognition of the high standards reached by Bangladesh's apparel factories, the country ranked 2nd in ethical manufacturing by QIMA, a leading provider of supply chain compliance solutions, and online news portal just-style with a score of 7.7, only behind Taiwan that scored 8.
Vietnam came in third, followed by Thailand, Pakistan, Turkey, China, India, and Brazil.
"High ethical manufacturing standards of Bangladeshi factories are well-recognised by brands and consumers around the world today," Faruque noted.
"Our priority is protecting workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. That is why we have set up a PCR lab," he added.
Dr Atiur Rahman, former governor of the Bangladesh Bank and Unnayan Shamannay chairman, said a roadmap would be drawn through the exchange of experiences of all stakeholders.
He said it would enable Bangladesh to ratify the ILO Convention 190 within a specified period and to begin the convention's implementation.
"During this process, we must always remember our local reality and keep pace with the world market competition."
Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) former president Fazlul Hoque said Bangladeshi factories have the best standards in the global apparel industry.
"We want to ratify the ILO convention 190, but we have to be careful about whether it will return to us like a boomerang," he said.
"Western countries introduced this convention. Though they are not yet discussing its ratification, Bangladesh is doing so because it has the spirit to ratify the convention," he added.
He also said Bangladesh has produced some best examples in some compliance issues that have not yet been discussed globally as the country has more than 100 green factories even though brands have not made that a requirement yet.
BKMEA Vice-President Fazlee Shamim Ehsan said the ILO Convention 190 would be accommodated in the labour law in the next amendment.
Bangladesh Employers' Federation Secretary General Farooq Ahmed said ratifying the ILO Convention 190 is a political decision but entrepreneurs are preparing for it.
Humaira Aziz, director of women and girls' empowerment programme of CARE Bangladesh, presented a paper at the meeting moderated by Dr Atiur.
BGMEA directors Arshad Jamal Dipu, Md Imranur Rahman, and Vidiya Amrit Khan, admin head of Incepta Pharmaceuticals Zahidul Alam, Rupa Fabrics Managing Director Shahidul Islam, and Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies Director Kohinoor Mahmud attended the meeting among others.