An “innovative” new agreeemt signed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Dutch, British and Canadian governments aims to support garment workers on Bangladesh.

The new accord, signed in New York, will try to strengthen labour inspection and upgrade building and fire safety at the workplaces of nearly 3.5m garment workers following a spate of recent incidents.

The multi-year programme, in response to a number of deadly fires and the Rana Plaza building collapse in April, is focused on supporting the Bangladeshi National Action Plan for Fire and Building Safety.

That plan, drawn up in the wake of Rana Plaza, calls for the assessment of all active, export-oriented, RMG (ready-made garment) factories in the country by 31 December.

It is also supported by other parallel initiatives, such as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, signed by over 80 clothing brands and retailers, and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a binding, five-year undertaking by North American apparel companies and retailers designed to improve safety in over 500 factories.

“The rapid growth in Bangladesh’s garment industry has provided vital jobs to women and men and is helping to pull them and their families out of poverty,” said ILO director-general Guy Ryder.

“However, there is an urgent need for decisive and collaborative action to make decent work a reality.

“This programme will improve conditions of work, especially safety, and help generate sustainable economic growth and investment.”