U.S. urges garment buyers to stay engaged with Bangladesh

DHAKA Mon May 27, 2013 8:57am EDT

1 of 3. Wendy Sherman, U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, talks during a news conference in Dhaka May 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Biraj

DHAKA (Reuters) - International garment buyers, particularly those in the United States, have a crucial role to play in ensuring the safety of Bangladesh's garment workers, a senior government official said on Monday.

A series of deadly incidents at factories in Bangladesh, including the collapse of a building housing garment factories last month that killed 1,130 people, has focused global attention on safety in the industry.

"On the labor issue, absolutely, buyers have a critical role and they must be engaged," U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman told a news conference in the Bangladeshi capital.

Western retailers and brands are struggling to assess safety risks at thousands of Bangladesh garment factories after the April 24 collapse of the Rana Plaza building in a Dhaka suburb.

Their task is made tougher by a lack of robust safety rules, a severe shortage of trained building inspectors and equipment needed to make proper safety assessments, and widespread concern about corruption.

Sherman said foreign companies should not give up on Bangladesh.

"We are encouraging international investors not to turn their back on Bangladesh, because the solution is reform, not withdrawal," she said.

"Ultimately, success will depend on the will and commitment of industry, government, civil society, and every day Bangladeshis to come together to change the culture of workplace safety and worker rights in Bangladesh," she added.

She said the United States was working with U.S. companies that source garments from factories in Bangladesh to secure their support for better safety inspections.

The United States was also funding labor and civil society organizations to promote respect for rights at work, including freedom to join a trade union, she said.

The collapse of the Rana Plaza was the world's deadliest industrial disaster since the Bhopal gas leak accident in India in 1984.

In November last year, 112 workers, most of them women, were killed in a fire at a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Comments (7)
Harry079 wrote:
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman should try sewing 10 pairs of pants an hour, 10 hours day, 6 days a week for $38 a month under conditions she wouldn’t keep her dog.

May 27, 2013 9:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Doc62 wrote:
“U.S. urges garment buyers to stay engaged with Bangladesh” Keep them cheap goods flowing in and US money out. win, win
Smart political move sending a woman in to “smooth thing over”. We will forget about the deaths in a few days. Business as usual.
I love the red carpet. Blood of the dead victims?

May 27, 2013 10:43am EDT  --  Report as abuse
JamVee wrote:
This is a conundrum.

If you keep buying, status quo, from Bangladesh, they will continue their abuses of the workers rights and safety. If you quit buying the workers will have no job.

You must predicate new orders on heavily enforced human rights & safety requirements. But you MUST inspect (often/random/unannounced), and cancel immediately if they don’t maintain full compliance.

To be a good corporate neighbor, this should be a “best practice” for your company anyway and should be applied no matter where you buy from.

May 27, 2013 10:54am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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