Bangladesh still has significant work to do in order to fulfil the sustainability compact drawn up in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster, according to the country's US Ambassador.

Meanwhile, international union federations are warning that future tragedies are “certain” if more progress is not made in the area of labour rights, while the European Union says better labour conditions will help improve trade with the EU.

One year after the Sustainability Compact was signed by the government of Bangladesh, the EU, the US and the International Labor Organization (ILO), a trio of labour organisations – ITUC, IndustriAll and Uni – warned that it remained difficult for workers to exercise their “fundamental labour rights” in Bangladesh.

“In particular, the inability of workers to organise and bargain collectively over the terms and conditions of work means that gains in building and fire safety will not be sustainable, leading to certain future tragedies,” the groups said.

They added that the government had “largely failed” to comply with the terms of the Compact, blaming a lack of political will, inadequate intra-governmental co-ordination, corruption and the “extraordinary dominance” of the garment sector in government.

Dan Mozena, US Ambassador to Bangladesh, highlighted the progress made on factory inspections, the suspension of operations where serious problems were found, safety improvements, the recruitment of labour and safety inspectors, and the registration of new trade unions.

But he warned that “significant work” remained, including the continuation of inspections, and the maintenance of an online public database of inspection results, which currently lacked vital information.

Meanwhile, the European Commission issued a progress report on the Compact for further discussion, with Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht and Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor saying: “We commend those foreign retailers who did stay engaged in Bangladesh.

“As a matter of priority, we also urge the government of Bangladesh to complete the labour law reform, training and recruitment of inspectors and to create the conditions for meaningful freedom of association.

“Better labour conditions will support sustainable trade links with many markets, especially the European Union.”