Appendix 8.1 Informing the public
Excerpt from BGMEA-ILO and UNICEF Agreement: A quick reference for managers and owners, October 1996 (ILO-Dhaka)
• Questions and answers about the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
WHAT IS THE MOU?
It is an agreement to remove children under 14 from BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) garment factories (including their subcontractors) and place them in education programmes.
WHY DID THE MOU BECOME NECESSARY?
Under the perceived threat of proposed legislation in the United States (the Harkin Bill to ban the import into the US of items produced by children) and actions by many consumers and buyers to boycott products made by children, several factory owners - in an attempt to get rid of children in their establishments - dismissed them overnight and pushed them into less favourable conditions. In light of the resulting backlash, many concerned parties sought a way for a more humane approach which would both protect the best interests of the child and those of the garment factory owners, their workforce and the country as a whole.
At the request of BGMEA and the Government of Bangladesh, the ILO and UNICEF at that time supported BGMEA's initiative to gradually phase out child labour under controlled conditions.
WHAT WAS AGREED TO?
It was agreed in the MOU signed on 4 July 1995: (a) that no child under the age of 14 would be recruited to work in garment factories, and (b) that children - who were already working - would not be terminated by the factory owners before they were placed in a school programme.
BGMEA, together with the ILO and UNICEF, signed the MOU with the support of the Government of Bangladesh and the US Embassy.
HOW IS THE MOU BEING IMPLEMENTED?
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