GENEVA — Bangladesh has made progress in enhancing global labor standards and safety norms for the country’s four million garment workers in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza building disaster, which claimed the lives of 1,133 people, but needs to do more in some areas, said the chief of the world’s biggest industrial union.
“During 2010 and 2011, there were two local unions registered, and now, during the past 12 months, over 100 local unions were registered. So the government did what they promised, that they would ease up,” said Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, an umbrella group that represents 50 million workers in 140 countries worldwide, including 15 million workers in the textiles and apparel sector. “In these past 12 months, 40,000 workers have been organized in more than a 100 hundred factories,” Raina, a Finnish national, and a lawyer, told WWD.
But he noted the South Asian nation still has some way to go.
“I would say Bangladesh has made some progress, but only because of the constant pressure by unions, by NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], by the U.S. government and the European Union,” he said.
“In Bangladesh, even though our unions represent workers, many are not union-registered. Now this is growing. So in some years, I believe, it will be in the hundreds of thousands.”
Asked if there is pressure from some foreign investors to deter garment workers from joining labor unions, Raina said, “Some brands are clear, they are against forming unions, and some are not.”
Both the International Labor Organization, which oversees global standards, and labor union leaders, such as Raina, highlight Bangladesh needs to take further steps to address concerns related to core lLO norms.
These include the requirement that 30 percent of workers in an establishment have to join a union before it can be registered by the government, and the lack of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights for workers in the country’s export processing zones. At present, they can only join welfare associations.
“The 30 percent is high. It would be much better if it was much lower, like 10 percent. But in some countries, it’s even higher, like the U.S. or Turkey, where it’s 50 percent plus 1, so it’s a majority. So it’s problematic in the U.S., but you can always get bargaining rights — the employer can always voluntarily do that.”
Similarly, Raina said, “Obviously, the EPZ is one of the big problems.…It’s a question of principle, that it’s completely unnecessary. They [EPZs] create some special kind of conditions such as on taxes, but there should be no compromise on labor standards.”
There are a few hundred thousand garment workers employed in Bangladesh’s EPZs, he noted.
Raina said the increase in the minimum wage for garment workers to $67 after the 77 percent increase in December from $38 is “a good first step,” but stressed, “they need to continue with annual revisions. It’s still below a living wage.”
With regard to the Bangladesh accord on fire and building safety, in which IndustriALL was the driving force, Raina said the brands, who have signed, cover more than two million workers in more than 1,600 garment factories.
“We’re really happy we have the accord in place. We have now hired 110 building and fire inspectors — 60 from foreign companies, and 50 from Bangladesh — to do these inspections. They are now finalizing the first round of inspections until September. It’s a huge task. We already faced big problems, of course. There are dangerous factories they identify, and the brands and the factory owners have to agree case-by-case on how to fund the renovations and that, of course, creates difficulties.”
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews