ILO and Gap Inc. launch new initiative to improve industrial relations in Bangladesh garment industry

11 Jul 2019

Dhaka − 1 July 2019

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and global apparel retailer, Gap Inc., have launched a joint initiative to further strengthen social dialogue and industrial relations in Bangladesh’s garment sector. The three-year initiative, the ILO Bangladesh Social Dialogue Project, will be implemented by the ILO in all factories that Gap Inc. sources from in Bangladesh.

The initiative will help build the capacity of factory management, compliance staff, union members and workplace committee members through training sessions on a range of topics including: freedom of association, collective bargaining, international labour standards, HR management, communications and negotiation techniques, as well as increase the understanding of the Bangladesh Labour Act.

Launched at Radisson Hotel Dhaka on 27 June, the event was attended by representatives from the Government of Bangladesh, ILO, Gap Inc., leaders from employer and workers’ organisations, and executives from Gap Inc.’s supplier factories.

ILO’s flagship Better Work Bangladesh (BWB) Programme, jointly with the ILO’s Social Dialogue and Industrial Relations project will implement activities under the initiative.

The ILO and Gap Inc. have been working together since 2001 through the Better Work programme, which currently operates in eight countries. Gap Inc. partnered with the ILO to establish the Better Work Academy, a global project which supports companies to improve compliance in their supply chains.

This joint initiative is welcomed in Bangladesh, given that the garment industry is one of the main contributors to economic growth and is the country’s main export industry, comprising over 83% of total export revenue annually in 2017 and 2018. While notable progress in industrial relations has been made in recent years, both workers and employers in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector acknowledge challenges with regards to industrial relations, particularly at the enterprise level.

“Bangladesh has gradually been transforming towards a rapid economic expansion driven by its industrial sector. The Government of Bangladesh is highly committed to ensuring labour rights and harmonious industrial relations to make such expansion and growth work for all.”  Mr. Zillur Rahman, Additional Secretary, and Member, Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA), stated at the launch ceremony.

“This initiative is a very important addition to the work of the ILO, trade unions, employers and brands to strengthen social dialogue and industrial relations in Bangladesh’s garment industry. Gap Inc., has been a long-standing partner in supporting factory facing programmes and we see this initiative as something that will hopefully create common learning on how to work together and expand similar programmes to other industry members,” said Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director of ILO Bangladesh, at the launching event.

“The effort to improve working conditions and labour standards is a shared responsibility. We believe that improvements in social dialogue and industrial relations in Bangladesh has the potential to bring about real change for workers and employers alike, and that this project can contribute to the increased resilience and stability of Bangladesh’s garment sector,” said Keith White, Executive Vice President of Loss Prevention & Global Sustainability at Gap Inc.

The launching event was also addressed by Mr. Asif Ibrahim, Director, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA); Mr. Mostafa Jamal Pasha, Director, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA); Mr. Sukkur Mahmud, representative of National Coordination Committee on Workers Education (NCCWE); Mr. Kamran T. Rahman, President, Bangladesh Employers’ Federation (BEF) and Mr. Md Giasuddin, Chairman, IndustriAll Bangladesh Council (IBC).

The representatives of the employers’ organisations highlighted their commitment to strengthening social dialogue and industrial relations, acknowledging that sustaining the growth in the country’s garment sector largely depends of the welfare of the workers.

The trade union representatives said sound industrial relations can deepen trust and make it a lot easier to resolve conflicts in the workplace.

About Gap Inc.

Gap Inc. is a leading global retailer offering clothing, accessories, and personal care products for men, women, and children under the Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta, Intermix, Janie and Jack, and Hill City brands. Fiscal year 2018 net sales were $16.6 billion. Gap Inc. products are available for purchase in more than 90 countries worldwide through company-operated stores, franchise stores, and e-commerce sites. For more information about the company’s commitment to ethical and sustainable sourcing, please visit Gap Inc.’s Global Sustainability website.

About Social Dialogue and Industrial Relations Project

The Promoting Social Dialogue and Harmonious Industrial Relations in the Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment Industry (SDIR) Project (jointly funded by the Governments of Sweden and Denmark), this project is part of the Global Deal initiative working to enhance workplace dialogue, rights, effective dispute resolution mechanisms and industrial relations in the Bangladesh ready-made garment (RMG) sector. The project intervention is primarily facilitating improved dialogue between employers and workers. For more information, please visit–en/index.htm

Better Work is a partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). On-the-ground in eight countries across three continents, Better Work brings together all levels of the garment industry to improve working conditions and respect of labour rights for workers, and boost the competitiveness of apparel businesses. In Bangladesh, the programme reaches 227 factories who work with 24 international brands.

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