A draft resolution on implementation of the Sustainability Compact in Bangladesh has been placed in the European Parliament (EP) recently, calling for extension of the Accord for five years, formation of wage board immediately, ensuring labour rights and addressing other issues. The Committee on International Trade of the EP proposed the draft, posted on the EP’s official website, which is scheduled for voting in the plenary Wednesday (June 14). The move came after the last month’s debate on the Compact in the EP where some of its members criticised the poor labour rights situation in the country and called for punitive measures. Officials said partners of the Compact in its last review meeting in Dhaka had expressed concern as the country failed to present any strategy with concrete and time-bound actions to address the ILO’s recommendations, including amendment to the labour law and EPZ law to ensure freedom of association. Immediately after the Rana Plaza building collapse, the EU, Bangladesh and the International Labour Organization (ILO) signed the Sustainability Compact, which was later joined by the USA and Canada, to improve labour rights and factory safety in the country’s readymade garment industry. Terming the responsible business in Bangladesh ‘primarily a domestic task’, the 16-point draft of the resolution called on the Bangladesh government to enhance its level of engagement as regards improving safety and working conditions and workers’ rights in the garment sector as a matter of highest priority. The draft also asked to enhance implementation of the legislation on building and factory safety, continue to increase government funding for the labour inspectorate, continue to recruit and train more factory inspectors, provide for conditions to lower the turnover of labour inspectors, set up an annual work plan for follow-up inspections of factories subject to remediation, and enlarge building and factory inspections to other sectors. Stressing the achievements of the engagement of the private business sector in cooperation with the Bangladesh government and international organisations in the country, through the Accord, it called on the parties to the Accord for prolonging their engagement by means of it for another period of five years, before the current agreement coming to an end on May 12 next year. It requested the government and local business sector to acknowledge the usefulness of the commitment of retailers in Bangladesh through the Accord and to support the extension of the mandate given to the Accord partners in Bangladesh. The draft also included the call to immediately reconvene the minimum wage board and institute a shorter frequency of wage review. Recognising the usefulness of the funds mobilised by donors and the importance of effective financial support, it urged the government of Bangladesh, industry associations and factory owners to pursue remediation work for all export-oriented RMG factories and to ensure that repairs and other inspection follow-ups are undertaken and transparently monitored by the relevant public authorities. Other suggestions included amendment to the labour law to promote social dialogue, ensure the speedy and non-arbitrary registration of trade union and effective investigation and prosecution of alleged anti-union discrimination and unfair labour practices in compliance with ILO conventions related to freedom of association and collective bargaining. It further urged the government to ensure that the law governing the EPZs allowed for full freedom of association in line with the same international standards. Recognising the importance of the local garment industry for economic and social development in the country, the EP, however, warned against initiatives that could lead to the disengagement of EU and other businesses from Bangladesh, saying it would be damaging not only for the country’s reputation but, most importantly, for its future development prospects. There is also a call for international brands and retailers and the Bangladeshi private sector to stay engaged in order to respect the labour laws and implement CSR measures, and to improve their record as regards responsible business practices, as well as facilitating the provision of transparent information on which factories are producing the goods and coordination mechanisms between relevant initiatives; encourages the continuation of the work of the global retailers and brands for the adoption of a unified code of conduct for factory audits in Bangladesh. The European Commission recently in separate letters has issued warning on temporary withdrawal of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) benefit for the country while last month setting August 31, 2017 as the deadline to make tangible progress on fundamental labour rights to avert any untoward measure.