Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)- Nine democratic senators have urged President Barack Obama to suspend US trade benefits for Bangladesh until it improves worker safety.
“We urge that the administration suspend Bangladesh’s eligibility for GSP (Generalised System of Preference) benefits, and establish a roadmap and timeline for reinstatement based upon tangible improvements in worker safety and related labour law reforms,” the senators said in a joint statement on Tuesday last.
The senators are Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey (D-PA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Angus King (I-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
They have also urged President Obama to do all within his power to pressure Bangladesh to support safer working conditions that could have prevented the worst garment factory accident in history.
The US president is expected by the end of this month to decide whether to curtail duty-free access for Bangladesh because of labour rights concerns.
The senators sent a letter to President Obama on June 25 saying that the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh underscores the urgent need for brands and retailers to work with governments to adopt a common and legally enforceable response that ensures that basic workplace safety and fundamental worker rights will be guaranteed.
Rana Plaza, an eight-storey commercial building, collapsed in Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka city on April 24 killing at least 1,127 people. It is considered the deadliest human tragedy in recent times.
“We hope you will fully take into account the recent tragedies, as well as the labour eligibility criteria of GSP, which requires beneficiary countries to take the relevant steps to advance internationally recognised worker rights,” the letter said.
The senators believe that several US brands and retailers are ready to put an end to these tragedies by collectively stepping-up and showing a commitment to real, enforceable standards. Brands such as Inditex (Zara), H&M, and now the U.S. brands Abercrombie & Fitch, PVH, and Sean John have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
“We appreciate the efforts of the State and Labour Departments and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in reaching out to the private sector to emphasise the importance of taking demonstrable, enforceable action to ensure such tragedies do not happen again, and to encourage brands and retailers to join in signing the Accord,” the senators noted.
They also said the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh underscores the urgent need for brands and retailers to work with governments to adopt a common and legally enforceable response that ensures that basic workplace safety and fundamental worker rights will be guaranteed.
BBN/SSR/AD-27June13-11:15 am (BST)