There is still “much more to do” to reform Bangladesh’s garment industry in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza tragedy, European Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht has said.

Speaking in Paris last week at a meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Commissioner highlighted the various efforts made over the past year through the Sustainability Compact for Bangladesh, an agreement made by the Bangladeshi government, the EU and the International Labour Organization (ILO), and later joined by the US.

Progress had been made in labour law reforms, factory inspections and EU-funded initiatives, he said, while the private sector had made “good progress” on factory inspections through the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.

But, de Gucht added, there was “much more to do”, with the implementation of labour reforms among the most urgent priorities.

“Improvements in labour rights must be extended to the Export Processing Zones,” he said.

“Bangladesh’s labour law still needs to address restrictions on trade union formation and membership, no later than in the next iteration of the labour law reform.”

Furthermore, the recruitment of labour inspectors needed to be accelerated, while inspections must proceed and their results must be published.

Workers must be allowed – by law and by practice – to organise into trades unions and make their voices heard at factory level, while inspections must be followed by structural improvements on safety, with Bangladeshi industry set to play a key role, he warned.

“And there is still much for retailers and importers to do,” de Gucht said.

“Although the Compact does not cover the issue of compensation of victims, I welcome the statement by governments calling for further contributions to the Rana Plaza Arrangement by international retailers and Bangladeshi manufacturers, as well as by the Government of Bangladesh.”

The European Commission is set to carry out an assessment of the current situation in Bangladesh in the coming weeks, with the aim of holding a meeting this autumn of all parties to the Compact, plus other stakeholders, to set the agenda for the future.