The AFL-CIO welcomes news that the U.S. government will suspend Bangladesh’s trade benefits granted under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). Bangladesh’s egregious labor practices have been under review for more than six years now, and the Bangladesh Government has repeatedly failed to comply with the minimum GSP requirements to afford internationally recognized labor rights to its workers.
The decision to suspend trade benefits sends an important message to our trading partners: Countries that benefit from preferential trade programs must comply with their terms. Countries that tolerate dangerous – and even deadly — working conditions and deny basic workers’ rights, especially the right to freedom of association, will risk losing preferential access to the U.S. market.
Since 2005, over 1800 workers have died in preventable factory fires and building collapses in the Bangladesh garment industry, including the most recent collapse of the Rana factory. Workers died because the government and industry violated safety standards to cut costs, while global apparel brands demanded production at the lowest prices in the world. The suspension of GSP benefits, together with the binding commitment made by over 50 brands to improve fire and building safety in factories, are important steps to improving dangerous working conditions. The global workplace cannot be a deathtrap for poor workers producing products for the global economy.
Bangladesh’s workers, many of them young women, need good jobs with strong worker protections, a voice at work and safe work places. The AFL-CIO hopes that the suspension of GSP benefits will be a catalyst to accelerate an effective process involving the government, employers and workers of Bangladesh to achieve these goals. International trade with strong labor rights enforcement plays a key role in ensuring that workers as well as their employers can benefit from increased prosperity and transnational trade and investment. With a demonstrated commitment to defending workers’ rights and improving working conditions, Bangladesh can earn reinstatement of GSP benefits.