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Additional helpline for Bangladeshi garment workers

By Simone Preuss


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Workers in Bangladesh's ready-made garment industry can now avail of a new telephone helpline – 0800 44 55 000 – that has been launched with the support of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Norwegian government.

Run by the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), the new helpline will initially only be available to workers in garment factories in Ashulia, one of the garment hubs around the capital Dhaka. Once it proves successful, it will be extended to workers across the country.

New helpline tested in Ashulia first

Calls received on the new number will be logged and forwarded to either the DIFE, the fire service and civil defence department or the directorate of labour. The appropriate agency will deal with the complaint and contact the caller with a response.

“Over the last two years, unprecedented efforts have been made to enhance workplace safety and improve workers’ rights in the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh. By providing workers with the chance to air grievances, this helpline gives a voice to the voiceless. It will also play an important role in facilitating better work place relations by helping address grievances that may otherwise escalate into mass protests or court cases”, said Srinivas B Reddy, ILO country director, at the launch ceremony on 15th March.

The new helpline is in addition to the one set up by the US Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance) in June 2014. According to the Alliance's latest progress report, the worker helpline has been a real success, receiving about 3,000 calls per month on issues ranging from workplace safety to working hours and wages. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and lets workers remain anonymous if they choose to. Its reach is limited though as it is only available to some of the workers of the Alliance member companies; currently to over 500,000 workers in more than 300 factories. Though the goal is to have 100 percent of factories and workers trained on how to use it by July 2016, a successful helpline needs to be nationwide and available to all 5 million Bangladeshi garment factory workers.

Photo: BGMEA