“We must do whatever we can to ensure that the textile industry has safe workplaces with decent pay and good working conditions – for both men and women,” says Minister of International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås. Increased trade is crucial for development. Norwegian imports of textiles and other goods create thousands of jobs in developing countries. Norway is now intensifying its efforts to strengthen workers’ rights in the textile industry.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh illustrates the need for action. Girls as young as 14 were maimed for life—and more than a thousand of their colleagues died in the disaster. These non-unionised workers had no means of resisting the pressure from their employers to return to a building where the floors and walls had deep cracks and from which other employees had been evacuated.
“Suppliers, consumers and we politicians all have a responsibility to act to prevent a disaster of this kind from happening again,” says Mr Holmås. Norad has therefore provided up to NOK 14.3 million in funding for the Ethical Trading Initiative Norway (ETI) to actively pursue programmes to improve conditions for textile workers in China, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh.
One of the measures being funded is courses for manufacturers on decent work. In this initiative, which was inspired by the Nordic dialogue model, employers and employees come together to practise how to have a constructive dialogue. Courses have been developed for manufacturers in China, India and Vietnam; Norad is now extending its agreement with the Ethical Trading Initiative Norway to include Bangladesh as well. The goal is to have 700 manufacturers attend courses held by the Ethical Trading Initiative in the period 2013–2015.