The International Labour Organisation (ILO), in partnership with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), has launched a comprehensive safety and training package to help the readymade garment (RMG) industry better protect and monitor workers and working conditions during Covid-19 pandemic.
As more and more workers return to work, the RMG "Learning Hub" will focus on three core areas: raising Covid-19 prevention awareness among workers and factory management, ensuring Covid-19 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) preparedness guidelines are being followed, and continuing to promote strong social dialogue in the workplace.
Developed by the ILO, the "learning hub" will serve as a one-stop virtual platform and has been made possible through $750,000 of financial support from Sweden and Denmark.
An additional $250,000 has been contributed by several existing ILO funding partners, namely Australia, Canada, the European Union (EU), Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the US Department of Labour (USDOL) and the Department for International Development (UK Aid).
To launch the innovation, the ILO organised a "virtual" webinar featuring the Swedish ambassador in Bangladesh Charlotta Schlyter, Søren Asbjørn Albertsen, sector counsellor of the Danish embassy in Bangladesh, Tuomo Poutiainen, ILO country director of Bangladesh, BGMEA President Rubana Huq and BKMEA Vice-President Mohammad Hatem.
The first phase of the one-year initiative (July 2020 – June 2021) will start with the "virtual" training of 150 BGMEA- and BKMEA-nominated "master trainers", followed by a "training of the trainers" rollout. Once the current situation permits, the safety training sessions will be physically rolled out to BGMEA and BKMEA factories.
The ILO will also offer the same package of Covid-19 safety training for "master trainers" from the Bangladesh Employers' Federation (BEF) as well as the government (Ministry of Labour and Employment, Department of Labour, Industrial Relations Education, and Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments) and leading workers' organisations (Workers Resource Centre, National Coordination Committee for Worker's Education and IndustriALL Bangladesh Council).
"I want to reiterate Sweden's strong commitment to supporting Bangladesh and the RMG industry in its quest to strengthen labour rights and social dialogue," Swedish Ambassador Charlotta Schlyter said. "This is really a time when cooperation between the ILO and key stakeholders is more important than ever."
"Social dialogue is more important than ever in Bangladesh," said Søren Asbjørn Albertsen, sector counsellor of the Danish embassy in Bangladesh. "With a common understanding between workers, employers and the government, Covid-19 can be tackled and harmonious conditions can be maintained in the workplace."
"Our joint response is focused on providing "best practices" to RMG factories to support a safe and stable return for their workers," said Tuomo Poutiainen, ILO country director in Bangladesh. "The ILO is also working with other sectors, as well as the government and workers' representatives to ensure that this critical and timely information reaches as many workers as possible."
"This joint Covid-19 industry response between the employers' and the ILO sets a significant landmark in our efforts to protect workers' lives and livelihoods," said BGMEA President Dr Rubana Huq. "The BGMEA is wholly committed to facilitating and scaling up this project and applauds the ILO for steering this timely and important initiative."
"The safety of our workers and supervisors is the utmost priority during this pandemic. I hope the virtual trainings will be an effective tool to enhance the capacity of the trainees and help the RMG industry overcome the ongoing crisis," BKMEA President AKM Salim Osman MP said in a statement, conveyed by BKMEA Vice-President Mohammad Hatem during the virtual launching.