The partnership between Australia and the International Labour Organization (ILO) has been strengthened by the re-commitment of funds for Better Work Bangladesh. This will improve working conditions, advance women’s economic potential and boost the competitiveness of Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry. Better Work Bangladesh (BWB) is a joint programme of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The Australian Government has been supporting BWB since 2016. Today, the programme reaches 485,708 workers in 210 factories who work with 22 international brands. During her visit to Bangladesh, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Dr Sharman Stone, said “our commitment to fund this programme until June 2020 demonstrates Australia’s support for industrial safety, labour law governance and women’s economic empowerment in Bangladesh”. Support from the Australian Government and other donor partners, enables BWB to empower women, reduce sexual harassment and to close the gender pay gap. The programme enhances women’s voice and decision making power across the industry, promoting their active participation in worker-management committees, unions and employer organisations. To date, 196,185 workers voted to elect 1,121 workers’ representatives, 42% of whom are women, in BWB-affiliated factories. Some 78 safety committees were formed, with 207 out of 586 representatives being women.
As well as advising garment factories, BWB collaborates with the Government of Bangladesh to improve labour laws, and with brands to ensure progress is sustained. As a result of their participation with BWB, factories have steadily improved compliance with ILO core labour standards and national legislation covering compensation, contracts, occupational safety and health and working time. This has significantly improved working conditions and, at the same time, enhanced factories’ productivity and profitability. Australia’s ongoing support for the Better Work Bangladesh programme drives important changes to workplace safety in the garment industry. “Alignment of the Bangladesh Government, unions and employer organisations with the ILO supported Remediation Coordination Cell, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance-backed Nirapon Initiative, will strengthen the garment industry” said Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Ms Julia Niblett.
“The ILO is proud to be working with the Australian Government who share our vision of uniting multiple stakeholders, promoting decent work for all and helping the garment industry in Bangladesh thrive. Better Work has made measurable impacts in the lives of millions of workers and their families. Now the challenge is to broaden our impact further. It is only by pooling our efforts and our expertise that we can create lasting, transformative change in the industry,” said Tuomo Poutiainen, ILO Country Director for Bangladesh.
“IFC is committed to our partnership with ILO to promote career progression for female sewing operators through GEAR, Better Work’s new training programme. With the support of the Australian Government, we will continue to bridge the gender gap in leadership positions and create opportunities for women in the readymade garment sector – the backbone of Bangladesh’s economy,” said Wendy Werner, IFC Country Manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.