Bangladesh garment manufacturers said Monday they would refuse to sign an anti-child-labor accord despite a U.S. boycott of their products.
Redwan Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said: “We are ready to face any propaganda against Bangladesh’s garment industry.”
Last week, the manufacturers unexpectedly vetoed an accord with international agencies to end child labor in their factories, calling it unnecessary and intrusive.
The Child Labor Coalition, a Washington-based agency of 40 organizations fighting child labor, responded by saying it would launch a boycott campaign.
It urged American consumers to stop buying Bangladeshi garments in order to punish the manufacturing industry, the country’s largest export business.
Thousands of children under the age of 14 work in garment factories in Bangladesh. The country exports $2 billion worth of clothing a year, 60 percent of it to the United States.
Under pressure from American buyers, the manufacturers began scaling down the number of child workers in 1993.
Since then, some 50,000 children have been sent out of Bangladesh’s 1,600 garment factories, Ahmed says. He estimates that about 10,000 of the industry’s 800,000 workers are children, but other estimates put the figure much higher.
Last week, his association vetoed an accord it had negotiated with UNICEF, the International Labor Organization and the Asian American Free Labor Institute. The deal would have sought to end child labor by Sept. 1, 1997, and provided for international monitoring and education for the children taken out of the workshops.