US importers seek better treatment of Dhaka garment workers

Dhaka, Sep 7 (Calcutta Tube) A group of US apparel and footwear importers and some lawmakers have protested the ‘repression’ of garment workers in Bangladesh who are rallying for a further wage increase.

The American Apparel and Footwear Importers Association (AAFA) has urged the Bangladesh government, that revised the wages but is facing protests from workers, to ensure treatment of workers ‘with compassion’.

Some US Congressmen also suggested major garment importers should exert their influence on the Bangladesh authorities so that workers are treated fairly.

New Age newspaper said Sunday it had obtained a copy of a letter of the US importers’ association addressed to Bangladesh’s ambassador in Washington, seeking an early settlement of disputes through peaceful negotiations.

The US is among the major buyers of Bangladeshi garments and knitwear, a sector that is the highest money-spinner for the south Asian country, netting $12 billion last year.

The letter, signed by Kevin M. Burke, the AAFA president and chief executive officer, expressed concerns about the recent events in Bangladesh, as reported in the media, about police and government repression on workers in various apparel factories.

Burke warned the Bangladesh authorities that AAFA member companies want to ensure that the apparel and footwear they import were manufactured under lawful, humane and ethical conditions.

‘We (AAFA members) hope the (Bangladesh) government will respect the rule of law and follow a peaceful approach in responding to these ongoing protests. More importantly, we urge the government to constructively engage all stakeholders – workers, producers and buyers – in order to resolve the wage issue as soon as possible,’ the association said.

Citing cancellation of registrations of some Bangladeshi labour rights groups, including the Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity, and detention of garment workers’ leaders, the association said such actions would be unacceptable to the US importers.

The letter signed by 19 US Congress members was sent to the chief executive officers of Wal-Mart, JC Penney, H&M, Cintas Corporation, K-Mart and VF Corporation – all major importers of Bangladeshi garments.

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