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New USAID program supports Bangladeshi garment workers

By Simone Preuss


Just in time for the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced a new 'Worker Empowerment Programme' for garment workers in Bangladesh. It will run for three years and support the women and men in Bangladesh's ready-made garment (RMG) sector in terms of labor rights, union organizing and women's empowerment.

"USAID's Worker Empowerment Program demonstrates the United States' vigilance in promoting fundamental labor rights, including workplace safety and health, so tragedies such as Rana Plaza can be prevented in the future," said Jonathan Stivers, USAID assistant administrator for Asia, in a statement. "We have partnered with the government of Bangladesh, international donors and the garment industry to empower workers by giving them a real voice in this vital sector and to reform labor laws consistent with international standards."

The Worker Empowerment Programme will focus on independent workers' organizations in Bangladesh to empower the workers, particularly women, through the skills and knowledge necessary to protect their rights, promote their interests and improve conditions in their workplace and community.

It complements the existing 'Global Labor Program' that trains workers on labor laws, provides legal support and assists workers in organizing and registering new unions. Since its inception, the program has registered nearly 300 new labor unions in the RMG industry, covering more than 65,000 workers.

"The European Union and the United States, in close cooperation with the ILO, will remain closely engaged with the Government of Bangladesh in the spirit of partnership to continue our work together to ensure that economic growth and sustainable development go hand-in hand with workers' safety and rights", it said further in the statement.

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