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New Trade Union World Briefing

New Trade Union World Briefing

Bangladesh: the tension is rising...

Brussels, 9 July 2004 (ICFTU online): Will Bangladesh lose a million jobs in the years ahead? This is what some experts are predicting will happen once the current system of export quotas for the textile sector ends in 2005. China and India will be major competitors for Bangladesh's garment industry, which alone makes up two-thirds of the country's exports. With a work force consisting of 80% women and no alternative solution if jobs are lost, serious social problems could erupt in Bangladesh if there is a major recession in the textile industry.

In a new briefing ( published today, the ICFTU stresses that Bangladeshi employers have sadly always resorted to solely relying on very cheap and easily exploitable workers in order to attract orders. This short-term approach is likely to earn them considerable setbacks in the liberalised market that will follow the ending of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (the successor to the Multi Fibre Arrangement). Some company bosses are beginning to realise, however, that improving their workers' conditions will also make their companies more productive. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is helping them to take appropriate measures, however the big buyers will also have to be convinced to change their practices: these multinationals are used to imposing prices and delivery deadlines on their suppliers that are scarcely compatible with the codes of conduct that these multinationals claim to be making their suppliers respect.

The ICFTU study shows that the Bangladeshi unions are well aware of the challenges which will come after January 2005, but are faced with the harsh anti-union sentiment of employers. Nevertheless, some unions have managed to set up social projects (schools and medical services) that are helping them to organise workers in the informal economy and even to attract the support of the owners of small garment workshops.

The ICFTU represents 151 million workers in 233 affiliated organisations in 152 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions:

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