H&M has welcomed the new co-operation in Bangladesh

H&M has welcomed the new co-operation in Bangladesh

Swedish fashion retailer Hennes and Mauritz (H&M) says it will be able to make a "hands-on" contribution to a new US$5.4m initiative to enhance workplace rights and industrial relations in Bangladesh, thanks to its experience in the country's apparel and textile sector.

The initiative was agreed in the margins of the recent United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. The Government of Sweden will provide funding for the scheme on ‘Promoting Social Dialogue and Harmonious Industrial Relations in the Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment Industry,’ which will run from November 2015 to December 2020.

Swedish apparel retailer H&M said its goal is for all factories that produce for H&M to be covered by the project during 2018.

At present, H&M is running a social dialogue programme in Bangladesh aimed at democratically elected employee committees at its supplier factories, as part of its fair living wage strategy.

The retailer is also in working with the ILO and SIDA on training and skills development in Bangladesh. The project, initiated by H&M in 2013 to create a link between skills and wage levels, has been completed both at its Centre of Excellence and at one factory. An additional 11 factories are waiting to start training.

Of the new initiative, H&M said: “Bangladesh is an important production market for us and we have worked to promote a stable labour market for many years. Thanks to our long experience from the Bangladeshi textile industry, as well as our knowledge within the social dialogue area, we are able to contribute to this new collaboration hands-on.”

The Bangladesh RMG sector has grown rapidly since the 1980s and currently comprises some 3,500 export-oriented factories, which generate over 80% of the nation’s export earnings. The industry currently employs an estimated 4.2m workers, the majority of whom are women.