Train garment owners to comply with UN principles on business and human rights

11 October 2021

Progress of the country's readymade garment (RMG) industry in respect of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights has remained below the elementary level. None of eight sub-indices of the UNGPs has reached the matured state yet. Think tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) has conducted a study that unearths the state of compliance of the values. Lack of corporatisation, faulty ways of public disclosure and lack of sufficient and effective public monitoring to ensure workers' rights have been identified as the bottlenecks to institutionalisation of the UNGPs in the RMG factories.
The study has suggested that Bangladesh's RMG sector, which has made significant progress in strengthening workplace safety, should focus on human and labour rights issues in adherence to the UNGPs to better handle the post-graduation challenges. UNGPs are the global standards for states and businesses to protect, respect and remedy humans within their bounds. Despite divergent levels of human and labour rights practices at the factory level, the practice of UNGPs in the RMG sector is still at the early stage. The process of institutionalisation of UNGPs is yet to be started in the RMG sector. The study revealed a disparity in human and labour standards in terms of size, membership and location of factories. The level of overall improvement is more evident in the large and medium-sized factories compared to the small ones.
About addressing the workers' complaints and grievance mechanism, the study found that the number of official complaints is lower than that of unofficial complaints. The factory management claimed that unofficial complaints are mostly addressed through negotiation giving verbal warnings. About 82.6 per cent of complaints reported by the surveyed workers are related to verbal harassment, followed by 13.04 per cent physical and 7.25 per cent sexual. Factory level grievance management systems do not necessarily ensure workers' right to justice. Most factories think that improving human rights conditions will also help improve the efficiency of the workers and increase purchase orders while 79 per cent believe it will increase the fixed and operational costs of a factory. The UN should train garment owners to comply with the principles, support the sector to cope with the change and bear the partial cost of establishing the values.

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