Blog: International pressure on Bangladesh intensifies

Petah Marian | 10 June 2013

International pressure on Bangladesh intensified last week, with the UK and US governments calling on the apparel industry to improve the safety of their supply chains in the country.

In the US, the Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing - Labour Issues in Bangladesh - where Senator Robert Menendez, committee chairman, opened the hearing by saying: "The tragedy at Rana Plaza - the deadliest accident of the global apparel industry - should be a wake-up call for all of us."

Unless they see significant changes to improve labour conditions and worker safety, Senators are calling on the Obama Administration to seriously consider suspending Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits to Bangladesh - the system under which it can export certain goods to the US duty-free.

This is likely to have little impact on apparel as the vast majority of products do not enjoy GSP relief - but politicians believe it would send a powerful signal to the Bangladeshi government and business leaders in the country.

Meanwhile, the UK government has invited the CEOs of approximately 20 retailers to meet with development secretary Justine Greening to discuss how the Department for International Development can work with them on the issue.

The UK government then pledged GBP18m in aid to help fund a programme of skills training for 100,000 garment and construction workers in Bangladesh. The government said the aim is to improve overall productivity and help to produce higher-value products.

Norway also pledged NOK14.5m (US$2.5m) in aid for Bangladesh, to promote worker rights and labour relations in export-oriented industries in the country. That money will be channelled through the International Labour Organization (ILO), and is part of the Norwegian Government's commitment to promote better working conditions in developing countries.

It appears to be business as usual for the apparel industry in Turkey, despite anti-government protests. Apparel industry body, the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers' Association (TCMA), said there has been no disruption to the delivery of its members' orders following the unrest.

TCMA president Cem Negrin told just-style that while workers from TCMA member companies have been involved in some of the demonstrations, they have not taken part in the strike action that took place this week. He emphasised that some apparel workers have been attending the demonstrations in the evenings - not during working hours.

In the US, warmer weather and improved consumer confidence, combined with rising stock and house prices, helped the majority of US apparel retailers to post modest sales gains in May.

Same-store sales increased 3.5% during the month, according to figures from research firm Retail Metrics, the strongest gain since 4.5% in January.

Finally, the ever-changing sourcing equation is a challenge to the global garment and textile industry supply chain - with each region having its own inherent set of problems and opportunities. June's just-style management briefing offers a look at alternative sourcing countries to China, outsourcing options closer to home, and the key considerations of ethical sourcing.


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