17:16:11 local time BANGLADESH
* Bangladesh- the Labour Law- an Overview of articles:
* Cabinet clears proposal to amend Labour Act:
The Cabinet on Monday approved in principle a draft proposal for amendment to the ‘Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006’, aiming to ensure the welfare of workers through various measures and thus uphold their rights.
The decision came from the regular weekly meeting of the Cabinet held at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said amendment to the law has been proposed to make it more time befitting considering the global context, election pledges of the government and the existing reality.
Under the proposed amendment, he said, the workers who have completed over 15 years in their jobs will get increased gratuity.
Earlier, workers used to get annul gratuity equivalent to one month’s basic salary. Now, they will get annual gratuity equivalent to a month and a half of the basic salary, showing a 50 percent increase.
The Cabinet Secretary said the draft of the new labour law has been finalised in consultation with all the stakeholders and ILO to create an atmosphere of productivity in industries and other sectors.
The new law will help address the basic problems of the working-class people and implement ‘Better Work Programme’ of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and international conventions and earn GSP facilities.
Besides, there will be provisions for setting up clinics if over 5,000 workers work under a mill or factory, forming a welfare fund for garment workers and it would be run by a separate board, outsourcing companies would be brought under legal framework and those companies would have to be registered, the overall safety and security measures of an organisation would have to be modernised, internal electricity system should be secured, exit-ways could not be kept lock as well as there should be no barriers and the staircases should be opened.
* Cabinet approves labour law amendment:
The cabinet, in principle, gave its approval Monday to the proposed amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Law 2006 with some changes including exclusion of the provision for sharing a 5.0 per cent profit with workers of garment industry.
In place of profit sharing, a new provision for creating of a welfare fund for the workers has been incorporated in the proposed amendment, a senior official told the FE.
He, however, said the provision for sharing profit with workers has been excluded from the proposed amendment upon request from the apparel sector leaders.
Some other new provisions including allowing trade unions at the ready made garment (RMG) units, workers’ safety and their welfare have been included in the proposed amendment to the labour law.
* Labour NGOs need to get nod:
The cabinet on Monday approved in principle a bill seeking amendments to the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 requiring non-government organisations to take permission from labour ministry for working in the industrial sector.
The labour ministry placed the bill at the weekly cabinet meeting at the cabinet division.
‘The amendment to the 2006 act has been initiated to ensure better work environment for the workers, cabinet secretary Muhammad Mosharaf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters , adding that the International Labour Organisation and the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank also wanted the changes in the law to ensure workers’ safety and welfare.
Each of export-oriented readymade factories will have to raise workers’ welfare fund and any factory having more than 500 workers will have to set up a clinic to ensure heath care to the workers, the cabinet secretary said. read more.
* Govt allowing trade union at factories:
The government has moved to retain the generalised system of preference (GSP) facility in the US market by allowing workers at factories to form trade unions.
The Cabinet on Monday provisionally approved a proposal to amend the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 that also aims at ensuring the workers personal security, organisational safety, increase in gratuity facilities, health services and their rights, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters.
The approval was given on principle at the regular Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
He said that the law proposed inclusion of provisions to have collective bargaining agents (CBA) in large organisations and ‘participatory committees’ in the small ones.
read more. & read more.
* Govt to set minimum wages under proposed labour law:
The Cabinet on Monday approved the Bangladesh Labour Law (Amendment), which enables the government to declare minimum wages for the workers of any industrial sector after taking special circumstances into consideration.
The approval was given at a Cabinet meeting held at the Cabinet Division, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
“If necessary, the government can declare a minimum wage structure for workers of the industrial sector by issuing gazette notification after bringing changes to the current wages,” stated the proposed amendment to the law.
“The wages of the workers can be paid through the banks accounts of the workers by electronic transfer,” the proposed law stated.
Under the new amendment to the law, group insurance must be extended to cover a minimum of 100 workers instead of the earlier 200 workers.
* Govt to recast labour law to retain GSP:
The cabinet yesterday approved in principle a proposal to amend the labour law with an aim to ease the procedures of forming trade unions at factories.
Currently owners decide on who will represent the unions that ultimately fail to safeguard workers’ interests.
The approval was given at the weekly cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair. Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan briefed reporters after the meeting.
The move comes as the government has expedited efforts to improve labour and safety standards under pressure from international communities.
The US, the single largest export destination for Bangladeshi products, threatened to discontinue a trade benefit after the devastating fire at Ashulia-based Tazreen Fashions that claimed 112 lives.
After the fire, Bangladesh had to attend an emergency hearing of the United States Trade Representative on March 28 to explain its position to retain the benefit — generalised system of preferences (GSP) — in the US market.
At the hearing, Bangladesh promised to bring changes to the labour law and improve safety standards at factories.
* Amendment to labour law:
On approval of the amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Law 2006 by the cabinet last Monday, an opportunity has been created for bringing about order in the country’s manufacturing and industrial sector.
The amendment will now go to parliament to be enacted as a new piece of legislation. How much good a law may be, it is the implementation that matters. Granted that the earlier version of the law was defective, yet things could improve a lot if the provisions under it were allowed to take full effect.
For example, a provision meant for the readymade garments industry specifically mentioned sharing of 5.0 per cent profit with the workers working in the sector. Had this been complied with, garments workers would have been far better off than they were because of non-implementation of the law. Amendment to any law is sought or effected presumably to create a more enabling working environment and/or better management-labour relations.
But this time, there is a sense of compulsion arising out of factors beyond the confines of the industry at home.
* Labour law amendment in the offing:
The government is planning to bring drastic changes in the labour law that would provide greater benefits to apparel factory owners but marginalise the workers, labour leaders said.
On April 22, the cabinet approved a draft bill seeking to amend the Bangladesh Labour Law Act 2006.
Labour Ministry officials said that the drastic changes in the existing law were proposed in consultations with the apparel industry owners.
The draft bill seeks to exempt the apparel industry from Section 232 of the law, which requires all factory owners to share five percent of their profits with the workers.
But Bangladesh Employers’ Federation had requested the government to exempt all the export oriented industries from the provision.
Labour Ministry officials said that the apparel factory owners never contributed to the labour welfare fund since it was created.
* Draft labour law amendment bill draws flak:
The government’s draft labour law amendment bill drew widespread criticism from trade union leaders as well as the industry owners.
On April 22, the cabinet approved the draft labour law amendment bill.
Trade union leaders said that the draft bill was an attempt to enact a ‘black law’ on the part of the Awami League government forgetting its 2008 election pledges to the country’s millions of deprived workers.
They said that the government wasted more than four years on unproductive meetings before producing an anti-worker draft bill.
The business community leaders also expressed concern over several proposals in it saying they would hamper industrialisation.
* Labour courts inadequate:
Only seven courts in operation, largely beyond workers’ reach
The labour and employment ministry cannot ensure justice to workers countywide due to a severe shortage of labour courts under the ministry, said officials concerned.
The seven existing labour courts established under the labour law remain largely out of workers’ reach since these are located at divisional headquarters — three courts in Dhaka, two in Chittagong and one each in Rajshahi and Khulna.
This means workers in different districts must go to the divisional headquarters to file cases with the labour courts, which is impossible for many, said officials in the labour ministry and labour courts.
Even there is no labour court at three divisional headquarters–Sylhet, Barisal and Rangpur. Workers living in Barisal division are more unfortunate than those working in Rangpur and Sylhet divisions. There are three circuit labour courts in Sylhet, Bogra and Rangpur where the judge from a neighbouring division’s labour court sits occasionally to dispose of cases filed by workers.
* Trade union right still illusive:
Only 3.88pc of the workers unionised
Trade union rights for workers in Bangladesh remain illusive as only 3.88 per cent of the employed workforce in the country are unionised.
Legal barrier to informal sector workers, wholesale privatisation, strong opposition of owners, opportunism, undue political interference, workers’ disunity and ideological divide among the leaders have stalled the trade union movement in Bangladesh for decades, allowing the workers’ rights to be trampled, said analysts and activists.
The absence of constructive unionism has imperilled the workers in both formal and informal sectors as they lack the basic rights of a national minimum wage, appropriate working atmosphere, safety, health facilities, leave and mechanism for dispute settlement, they added.
‘The trade union rights were crippled when de-nationalisation started and the private sector patronised in the country. The owners of private mills and factories deprived the workers of their rights to trade union,’ said Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad coordinator Wajed-ul Islam Khan.
* Cabinet okays draft of Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill 2013:
The Cabinet on Monday approved the Bangladesh Labour Law (Amendment) Bill -2013, aiming to ensure the interest and rights of the workers.
The approval came from a regular cabinet meeting held at the Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
After the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the amendments sought in the bill are designed to protect the interest of the workers.
In the amendment bill, the group insurance of the workers has been made mandatory for the companies with minimum 100 wprkers.
“If necessary, the government can declare a minimum wage structure for the workers of the industrial sector by issuing gazette notification after bringing changes to the current wages,” According to the proposed amendment.
“The wages of the workers can be paid through the bank account of the workers by electronic transfer,” the proposed law stated.
to read. & read more. & read more.
* Draft of Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act, 2013 okayed:
The cabinet today approved the draft of the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act, 2013 aimed at protecting the interest and rights of the workers and ensuring their safety.
The approval was given at the regular weekly meeting of the cabinet held at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
After the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan briefed reporters.
He said the amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Act has been made to make the law time-befitting as well as protect the interest and rights of the workers and ensure their security. “It will also help increase productivity as it has a relation with the welfare of the workers,” he said.
The cabinet secretary said the existing labour law was enacted in 2006. But the law needed massive amendments as the contexts have changed in the meantime.
* RMG makers ready to accept Wage Board recommendations:
Appreciating the government’s decision on forming new wage board for the readymade garment (RMG) workers, country’s apparel manufacturers have underscored the need for involving sector related experienced persons in new wage board committee so that the RMG sector could retain its competitiveness home and abroad.
The apparel manufacturers will accept whatever recommendations will be come out from the New Wage Board Committee which will be formed to determine new wages for the RMG workers, they said.
However, they said the committee should be formed with the participation of those members who will provide decisions considering overall situation of the apparel sector.
On Sunday, jute and textile minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui said the government is going to form a new wage board by next week to recommend an acceptable minimum wage for the country’s RMG workers.
* More freedom for trade union:
Cabinet okays draft of new labour law
The cabinet yesterday approved the final draft on an amended labour law that gives greater freedom to form trade unions.
The `Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act-2013′ also keeps a provision for group insurance for 100 plus workers.
Briefing reporters after a meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said it would protect the interest of the workers and ensure their safety.
However, the cabinet has sent back a proposal by the commerce ministry on signing the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (Ticfa) with the US.
Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Shaikh Md Wahid-Uz Zaman said: “It was not on the cabinet’s agenda today.
It must be placed in the cabinet for thorough discussion before giving approval and signing as Ticfa is an important matter.”
The proposed labour law has made it simpler for workers to join trade unions and mandated a clinic when there are more than 5,000 workers in a factory.
* Cabinet nods trade union for RMG workers:
The cabinet on Monday gave final approval to Bangladesh Labour (amendment) Act 2013 ensuring trade union right to the garment workers.
The approval came at the weekly cabinet meeting at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
According to the proposed law, there is a provision for groups insurance for the garment workers where there are at least 100 labourers.
The interest of the garment workers has been upheld with the amendment, M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, cabinet secretary, told reporters after the meeting.
* Law changes allow RMG workers to unionise:
The cabinet on Monday gave final approval to a bill seeking amendments to the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 removing barriers to trade union activities in the export-oriented apparel industry.
The amended law, however, would require non-government organisations to take permission from the labour ministry for working in the industrial sector, according to the draft.
‘The amendment to the 2006 act has been initiated to ensure better working conditions for workers and also to enhance productivity,’ cabinet secretary Mohammad Musharaf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters.
He said there would be no barriers in the law for
RMG workers to form trade unions or participatory committees in the industrial units.
The labour ministry placed the bill at the weekly cabinet meeting with the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, in the chair, proposing mandatory ‘group insurance’ for workers.
‘Group insurance will be made compulsory for the garment factories employing a minimum 100 workers. If a worker dies, the factory authorities will pay the insurance money to their spouses after collecting it from the insurance companies concerned,’ Musharraf said. read more.
* Bangladesh Labor Law amended into “Bangladesh Labor Act 2013″:
The cabinet approved the draft of the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act, 2013 aimed at protecting the interest and rights of the workers and ensuring their safety.
The approval was given at the regular weekly meeting of the cabinet held at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
After the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan briefed reporters.
He said the amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Act has been made to make the law time-befitting as well as protect the interest and rights of the workers and ensure their security. “It will also help increase productivity as it has a relation with the welfare of the workers,” he said.
Bhuiyan said the proposed law brought outsourcing companies under registration to improve management of the company and prevent exploitation of the workers.
In the proposed law, he said, the group insurance of the workers has been made mandatory for companies with minimum 100 workers. read more.
* “Call for labor rights? – NO WORK, NO PAY” – BGMEA:
We don’t want to suspend production but have been forced to do so as the owners feel insecure following the continuous unrest” – BGMEA president Atiqul Islam, May 15, 2013.
BGNEA President Atiqul Islam at a press conference further said that they had taken the decision to shut factories as per the Section 13 (A) of the Labour Act, meaning the workers will not get salary or their dues.
The workers blockaded the Dhaka-Tangail Highway for about an hour in the morning. They also threw brickbats in some factories and tried to vandalise vehicles on the highway.
There are over 300 garment factories enlisted with the BGMEA in the industrial belt that supllies almost 20 percent of the country’s total export-focused apparel produces.
* Bangladesh to Allow Garment Workers to Unionize, Raise Minimum Wage:
Bangladesh’s government agreed on Monday to allow the South Asian nation’s 4 million garment workers to form trade unions without seeking permission from factory workers, a milestone victory for labor-rights campaigners who have been lobbying for widespread reforms to the industry following a devastating building collapse that killed more than 1,100 people three weeks ago.
The decision came a day after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s administration announced a plan to raise the minimum wage for garment workers, who are paid as little as $38 per month—a quarter of China’s current minimum wage—to sew clothing for brands and retailers in North America and Europe.
* Labour law for garment industry:
The necessary reforms in the labour law will soon see daylight. Although quite late, the chapter has finally been opened. It is a bitter truth that the unfortunate deaths of more than one thousand garments workers at the Savar have accelerated the reform process.
Provision for group insurance and gratuity facilities will be provided for industrial workforce, particularly in the garment sector. One wonders why it took such a long time. Was there an unholy alliance between the factory owners and the authorities concerned? The government deserves appreciation for getting this important work done.
* Labour law draft speaks more ‘in favour of employers than workers’:
The amendment to the labour law, as was approved by the cabinet, goes more in favour of employers than the workers in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector, trade union leaders and some legal experts said.
Many provisions have been included in the draft amendment or withdrawn from the original law by putting some restraints on the workers’ rights to effective trade unionism and bargaining capacity, they said.
The experts and labour leaders alleged the proposed amendment, in many cases, does not comply with the standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), particularly when it comes to the main issue of workers’ right to unionism.
* Questions over changes to labour law:
Trade union leaders say new rules won’t help workers much
Most of the amendments to the labour law approved by the cabinet on Monday go against workers, especially in the garment sector, trade union leaders said yesterday.
The amendment, in many cases, does not comply with the standards of the International Labour Organisation, particularly on workers’ right to union, they said.
At least 30 percent representation of workers of a factory will be required to form a trade union, said Mojibur Rahman Bhuiyan, general secretary of Bangladesh Mukto Shramik Federation.
“Some factories have upwards of 40,000 workers — it would be almost impossible to assemble that many workers in one place to take their consent on trade union.” Besides, workers within the factory will only be eligible for the position of union leaders, he said.
“These provisions — all of which prevent formation of union freely — go against ILO Convention 87,” said Bhuiyan, also the vice-chairman of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, an apex body of labour unions.
Bhuiyan’s comments came at a press briefing organised by Sramik Karmochari Oikya Parishad (SKOP) at the JSD office in the city. read more.
* Form trade union for own good:
Apparel makers have to introduce trade unions in their own initiative, as an effective union is a must to resolve workers’ unrest, experts said yesterday.
“A responsible trade union is good for any organisation. But garment workers cannot form it due to several obstacles by the owners,” said Former Cabinet Secretary Ali Imam Majumder.
The owners have to come forward to form the union by removing all the hurdles and workers will facilitate the initiative, he said at a roundtable.
Majumder’s comment came at a time when the cabinet has approved a ceiling to form a trade union in a recent amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Law 2006.
A representation of at least 30 percent of the workers in a factory will be required to form a trade union and the initiative has to come from the workers, according to the draft. read more.
* ILO, WB for labor changes in BD:
The narrow, rusty and wobbly fire escape of garment factories housed in a dilapidated building at Chairmanbari of Banani in the capital.
How the fire escape will hold in case of an emergency, when hundreds if not more than a thousand workers use it, beggars belief. Photo: Sk Enamul Haq- DailyStar
The International Labor Organization and World Bank have refused to let Bangladesh join a textile industry monitoring program until the country overhauls its labor laws and conditions for unions improve, according to a top ILO official.
The strict stance by the ILO and World Bank, which jointly run the global Better Work program, is part of an international drive that is gaining pace following a series of deadly industrial accidents in Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest garment exporter and home to an estimated 5,000 textile plants.
read more. & read more.
* ILO, WB block Bangladesh from Better Work programme:
The International Labor Organization and the World Bank have refused to let Bangladesh join a textile industry monitoring programme until the country overhauls its labour laws and conditions for unions improve, reports The Washington Post quoting a top ILO official.
The strict stance by the ILO and World Bank, which jointly run the global Better Work programme, is part of an international drive that is gaining pace following a series of deadly industrial accidents in Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest garment exporter and home to an estimated 5,000 textile plants.
A group of visiting Bangladesh officials continued meetings in Washington on Friday with Secretary of State John F. Kerry and others, hoping to convince the United States they are serious about improving industrial conditions in the country.
Bangladesh asked last year to join the Better Work programme, which involves unannounced, independent inspections of participating textile plants by outside experts and technical help from the World Bank for managers and plant owners. But officials said the country’s labor laws are so weak, and the conditions for unions and workers so treacherous, that they have demanded major changes in advance of approving its participation.
“There were unacceptable risks of failure to starting a programme before these conditions are realized,” said Dan Rees, director of the Better Work programme, which currently monitors some textile factories in Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and elsewhere. “There is a lack of clarity in the law and we cannot as a programme get involved in monitoring factories and being seen as resolving conflicts when in fact we are not empowered to do that.”
* TU rights and apparel sector troubles:
The Rana Plaza collapse has again prompted experts and members of civil society to raise the demand for instituting a strong regulatory or controlling authority for the country’s apparel industry, robust in recent time but now under stress.
Immediately after the Tazreen Fashion fire that had claimed 112 lives, there was a demand for setting up a controlling authority for the industry. Some have suggested putting in place a separate ministry while some others wanted an independent regulatory body having enough authority to punish the errant apparel units. However, with the passage of time such demands would lose steam and the business is most likely to become as usual.
Early last week, participants at a discussion meeting, organised by a vernacular financial daily in Dhaka, laid emphasis on the formation of a controlling authority on an urgent basis for the apparel sector.
There is no denying that the sector needs an effective authority to right many wrongs and address the future challenges. In fact the industry has never been under so much of national and international focus or scrutiny as it is now. The death of a record number of workers of garment units at the ill-fated Rana Plaza is the main reason behind this.
Never before did a US President or the Pope at the Vatican make any observation about the safety, security and wages of Bangladesh garment workers. The comment from the incumbent pope has been particularly damaging to the image of Bangladesh and its apparel industry. read more.
* Bangladesh Labour Act- 2013- Workers’ rights still in darkness:
The government of Bangladesh is going to amend the Labour Act-2006 after the series of tragic industrial devastation which arose questions about the countries continued eligibility for generalised system of preferences for the market of United States and European Union, on accounts of its low standard and occupational safety.
Meanwhile, a proposed amendment has been drafted which is expected to be finalised by June this year which claims to bring changes for the betterment of the workers.
But it is still in vague whether the changes could bring better result for the workers or not?
The changes of the law are the dire need to ensure the workers’ rights especially for the Ready Made Garment Sector (RMG) workers.
They are being deprived from their legal right as well as their universal human rights which has been prescribed in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (UNHR) and International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
According to Article 23 of ICESCR, every worker has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to adjust and favourable conditions of work and to protection against undue unemployment.
Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. Everyone who works has the right to adjust and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
* US for full labour rights, but not at cost of industry:
The United States wants Bangladesh to ensure labour rights in full, but not at the expense of or damage to the garment industry.
“At the Bangladesh-US Partnership Dialogue that began on Sunday, the US side said we “want full labour rights. But, we do not want the garment industry to be damaged,” a senior official told The Independent in the evening. Three working sessions on trade and investment, governance and development, and security were held on the first day of the partnership dialogue between Dhaka and Washington.
“Understandably, the US side spent more time on labour issues,” said the senior official.
Washington believes that if the government is strict it will be able to go through the current crises with regards to the garment industry,” he said.
They emphasised that the proposed labour law reform would be done in such a manner so that the ILO’s Better Work Programme could be introduced as soon as possible, the official added.
According to another official, the US side has agreed with Bangladesh’s proposal to involve buyers in labour rights and safety and called for a connference of the buyers to be held in Bangladesh to address the issues.
* Labour law changes are regressive:
The world’s largest trade union federation says amendments go against workers’ interests
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the world’s largest federation of trade unions, yesterday expressed deep concern over the proposed amendments to the labour law, terming them to be regressive.
The new amendments do not comply with even the most basic standards set out by the ILO, particularly when it comes to the main issue of workers’ right to union, said the ITUC activists during their visit to Bangladesh.
“Labour reform requires tripartite involvement — of labour, owners and government. But it is our view that the government didn’t take into consideration workers’ demands in formulating the amendments,” Wellington Chibebe, deputy general secretary of ITUC, told The Daily Star.
ITUC, which represents 175 million workers in 155 countries, criticised the stipulation of at least 30 percent representation of workers to form a union.
He said the imposition of minimum requirements is “obstacle” to freedom of association.
Referring to a new provision which states that a worker will not be a member of trade union of a factory if he/she loses job, Chibebe said, “If a trade union leader emerges as a threat to owners, the employer can simply fire him/her, thanks to this provision.”
* Labour Law amendment goes against intl labour standards:
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), a global association of trade unions, considers the proposed amendment to the Labour Law as not being in compliance with the International Labour Standards (ILS).
With this action, the government is missing the opportunity to ensure the workers’ rights truly after the Rana plaza tragic incident, it observes.
“The world wants to see the government’s sincerity in the reform of the Labour Law on urgent basis for true labour rights,” said the ITUC Deputy General Secretary (DGS) Wellington Chibebe in an interview with the FE.
Prior to leaving Bangladesh after a short visit on Tuesday, the ITUC leader expressed the association’s concern at the proposed amendment to the Labour Law and said the recent tragic incidents in the ready-made garment industries of Bangladesh had created opportunities for the government to improve the working condition and workers’ safety and enhance industrial relationship.
* Trade union holds key to labour rights:
Trade union is a must to ensure labour rights and improve working conditions at garment factories, speakers said at a discussion yesterday.
They also stressed an in-depth study on the garment industry to get a clear picture of salary structure and lifestyles of workers, value addition of products, and profit and costing issues.
Trade union is also important to build up confidence and deepen the relationship between the owners and the workers, the discussants said.
Though trade unions are allowed in the sector, workers cannot practise the right due to legal complexities, the speakers said.
They also urged the government to ease the procedure of forming trade unions.
They spoke at the roundtable on the garment industry and the national budget co-organised by Bangladesh Garments Accessories and Packaging Manufacturers and Exporters Association and the daily Prothom Alo at the newspaper’s office in Dhaka.
“It is often believed that trade unions would create problems or hamper work environment. But this is not true,” Industries Minister Dilip Barua said.
He urged the owners to set a uniform rate for their exportable items.
“There are allegations that many owners bring work orders from international buyers at very low prices.”
He also called upon the opposition parties to keep the garment sector out of the purview of shutdowns.
* EU urges BD to update labour laws thru’ JS to retain GSP:
The European Union (EU) has urged Bangladesh to update its existing labour laws through parliamentary amendments for retaining the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility enjoyed by the country, officials in Dhaka said Wednesday.
The call was made when Foreign Minister Dipu Moni discussed the recent resolution of the European Parliament (EP) with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht in Brussels Tuesday, said a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).
The meeting was held on May 4, amid an outcry in the industry following the deadliest Rana Plaza collapse at Savar on April 24, which killed 1,127 workers and maimed scores.
* PM for steps to let RMG workers unionise:
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on Monday asked the cabinet to take steps to introduce trade union activities in the export-oriented apparel factories.
She said that the workers’ right to unionise was essential in dealing with labour issues ‘more effectively’ in the face of unrest in the garment industry that employs over 40 lakh workers, mostly women.
Hasina told her cabinet colleagues that the Awami League-led government had initiated amendments to the labour law considering trade union activities positive in resolving any crisis in the labour-intensive industrial sector, a minister told New Age after the weekly cabinet meeting.
read more. & read more.
* Labour (Amendment) Bill, 2013 placed in JS:
Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill, 2013 was placed in the Jatiya Sangsad today to make the existing law time befitting for workers’ welfare.
Labour and Employment Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Razu placed the bill, which was later sent to the concerned parliamentary standing committee for scrutiny.
The bill proposed for specific provisions to ensure safety and professional health of the workers, easing the process of formation of trade union, giving compensation, child labour, hazardous work, introducing compulsory group insurance, formation of minimum wage board and labour court.
to read. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Govt takes steps for welfare of RMG workers: PM:
Prime Minister and Leader of the House Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday said her government has taken various measures to continue productivity by ensuring welfare of the garment workers, removing labour unrest and maintaining working atmosphere in the garment industries, reports BSS.
The Prime Minister said this in her question and answer session in reply to a question from treasury bench member Mahmud- Us-Samad Chowdhury.
The steps, she said, include fixing minimum wage for the garment workers at Taka 3000 from Taka 1662, formation of an 11- member ‘cabinet committee on the garment industry’ comprising 11 ministers and state ministers and the crisis management core committee to resolve labour unrest.
The Leader of the House said an 18-member committee has been constituted with the textile and jute minister as its chairman and state minister for labour and employment as the vice-chairman to ensure working atmosphere in the garment industries and welfare of the workers and check accidents.
* Can trade unions really improve RMG workers’ lot? :
In its long journey, readymade garment (RMG) sector in Bangladesh has been making a headway quietly but steadily.
The industry has always enjoyed a silent support from all the sections of the society as the sector has ensured the highest job opportunities, specially for the least privileged women in this country. As a foreign currency-earner, the industry ranks number one and has been maintaining this status for years.
The RMG sector nowadays has become the focal point of economists, intellectuals, journalists and bureaucrats for discussing its current affairs and future prospects. Obviously the recent incidents and anarchy in the industry have triggered this interest among these quarters. Expert opinions are filling the columns of almost all daily newspapers and late- night TV talk shows galore on various channels. We guess many of these commentators have not ever stepped into a garment factory themselves
Here this writer would like to refer to a fairly recent comment of a cabinet minister who said that labour unions would be allowed to operate in the garment factories in order to get the industry out of labour unrest.
* Bangladesh unions reject new labour laws:
Bangladesh’s union leaders on Thursday rejected new labour laws for garment factory workers drawn up in the wake of April’s industrial disaster, saying they failed to improve their rights and entitlements.
The Bangladesh government had agreed to allow the nation’s factory workers to form trade unions without prior permission from factory owners, after the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment complex that killed more than 1,100 people.
But union leaders said the new amendments now being debated in parliament propose the formation of a “participation committee” in factories to be headed by bosses, instead of unions organised by workers.
“These amendments are a sham,” union leader Wajedul Islam said.
“A participation committee cannot be a collective bargaining agent because it will be headed by the owner. It won’t ensure worker rights, rather curb them,” he said.
“We’ve rejected them and asked the government and the parliament to make necessary changes to make our labour laws in line with international standards,” Islam said.
* Bangladeshi unions reject inadequate labour law changes:
Bangladeshi union leaders have rejected new labour law proposals drawn up by the government, saying they failed to improve their right to organize workers and guarantee freedom of association.
At the end of May, the Executive Committee of IndustriALL Global Union adopted a four-point action plan for Bangladesh:
* Implementation of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety
* Labour law reform to secure freedom of association
* Raising the minimum wage from US$38 a month to reach living wage by 2015
* Launching a massive organizing project to ensure union presence in 5,000 garment factories
Following international pressure and a high-level ILO mission to Bangladesh in May, the Bangladeshi government adopted a proposal on a labour law reform to be presented to the parliament. However, early positive signs have all but evaporated and the package has proved to be a deception. Respect for the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, in particular the rights to organize unions and bargain collectively, is severely lacking.
As an improvement, a former provision that factory owners be given the names of workers wishing to join unions may disappear in the new law. However, Bangladeshi union leaders point out that severe obstacles to unionization, registering of unions, collective bargaining, and the right to conduct strikes remain. In addition, the 360,000 workers in Bangladesh’s eight export processing zones will remain excluded from protection under the labour law, instead relegated to a separate law that prohibits workers from forming a union.
Also the campaign for an increase in the minimum wage from 38 USD a month for four million Bangladeshi garment workers remains stalled, as a result of employers’ resistance.
* Mass hearing on Labour Law amendments starts:
The first phase of the three-day mass hearing of the parliamentary standing committee of Labour and Expatriate Welfare Ministry on Labour Law amendments started today at parliament members club of the Jatiya Sangsad.
Different labour organizations placed their arguments before the committee relating to amendments to the Labour Law, 2013 keeping provisions of forming trade unions in the factories, fixing six months as maternity leave and introducing five percent interest for workers.
* RMG workers demand Tk.8,000 minimum monthly wage:
Garment workers Action Committee (GWAC) at a rally Thursday demanded hike in their wages, adequate compensation for Rana Plaza victims and abolition of anti-labour clauses from the proposed labour law.
Held in front of the National Press Club, they demanded Tk 48 lakh compensation for each family of Rana Plaza victims, safety of the workers, free trade unionism at all mills and factories and Tk.8,000 as minimum monthly wage for garment workers.
They criticised the proposed amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Act, approved by the cabinet, for barring free trade union at the mills and factories.
They demanded abolition of all anti-labour clauses from the proposed amendment.
Presided over by Rafiqul Islam Pathik, the rally was addressed among others by its central leader Mir Mosharraf Hossain, Textile garment Federation president Mahbubur Rahman Ismail, Zulhasnain Babu, Jago Bangladesh garment workers Federation president Bahrane Sultan Bahran and Shaobnam Hafiz.
* Make labour law time-befitting for dev of garment sector:
Representatives of diplomatic corps at a hearing on Saturday on the proposed Labour Law called for making it time befitting in accordance with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standard for the sake of the development of garment industry.
They highlighted the sector’s importance on the economic development of the country, employment generation, per capita income and poverty alleviation and laid importance on continuation of the development trend.
* TUs approved in 22 RMG units:
The government has provided registration to trade unions (TUs) in 22 apparel units in line with changed stance on the issue of labour union in the country’s apparel sector.
The process of registering trade unions has begun with the objective of retaining the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility in the US market following pressure, which has deepened after two major industrial accidents, from local and international labour activists, official sources said.
The latest Rana Plaza collapse that claimed over 1100 lives, mostly women, further brought the demand for a bargaining platform at the ready-made garment (RMG) units in focus. The demand was also strongly highlighted at a recent meeting between the foreign envoys and the garment manufacturing sector leaders.
Labour rights organisations and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) welcomed the government move saying trade unions would help the sector to go forward.
* EU concerned about Bangladesh labour market:
William Hanna, ambassador and the head of European Union (EU) delegation, said the EU is very much concerned about the labour market and working environment in Bangladesh.
“We should not only think about making money, also quality of products, as well as right to decent work environment for labours,” said the ambassador. He was speaking at the national launching ceremony of “Strengthening Women’s Collectives Project in Bangladesh, India and Nepal” organised by ActionAid and financed by the EU, at city’s Spectra Convention Centre on Monday.
Taking about women’s unpaid care works, he said we have to give value and pay for women’s contribution to household works.
* EPZs to enjoy no more exemption from provisions of labour law:
The government has backtracked on its earlier stance on exempting the factories inside the export processing zones (EPZs) from the purview of Bangladesh Labour Law 2006 to help retain the existing facilities under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) in the US market, sources said.
The EPZs are being run under the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority Act 1980.
These special economic areas were given immunity from The Employment of Labour (Standing Order) Act 1965, The Industrial Relations Ordinance-1969, and The Factories Act-1965 under the section 8 of General Clauses Act 1987 since the EPZs are being run under the BEPZA Act.
These three laws exist in a harmonised manner under the labour law.
* Labour law amendment bill to be passed next week: JS body chief:
The ‘Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill, 2013’ will be passed in Parliament the next week.
Revealing this, chairman of the Standing Committee on Labour and Employment Ministry Israfil Alam MP, said the new law will be an ideal one to protect the interest and rights of the workers and ensure their safety.
He was addressing a roundtable discussion on ‘Compensation for the decased and injured workers in workplaces: Necessary amendment to existing laws’ held at the Cirdap auditorium.
Jointly organised by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and Safety and Rights Society, the programme was presided over by Justice Md Awlad Ali.
* Trade unionism, better pay ignored in amended labour law:
Parliamentary watchdog sets recommendations without accommodating foreign diplomats’ suggestions
A parliamentary body has finalised recommendations on the proposed Labour (amendment) Bill 2013 without accommodating foreign diplomats’ suggestions for ensuring better working condition and rights of workers to unionise.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on labour and employment ministry in its Thursday’s meeting, presided over by its Chairman Israfil Alam, settled the recommendations for the proposed bill.
The meeting follows a three-day public hearing held on June 13, 15 and 16 in which a number of foreign diplomats suggested that the amended bill should contain provisions for ensuring better working conditions and payments, including compensations, for readymade garment factory workers and their rights to form unions.
The garment factory owners who also attended the public hearing, opposed the
suggestions for allowing workers to unionise.
The papers that the Dhaka Tribune accessed showed that the recommendations included some clerical changes but the contents had been left largely unchanged. (…)
“The labour law does not debar trade unionism in the RMG units. If the owners agree, the workers can form trade unions,” said Monnuzan Sufian.
* EU seeks to read new labour law:
Trade commissioner hosts meeting in Geneva next week
The European Union yesterday said it wants to look into Bangladesh’s amended labour law as EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht is set to host a meeting in Geneva next week to discuss trade privileges.
“A decision to withdraw the EU GSP for Bangladesh must be avoided, as it would have far-reaching consequences for jobs and for the economy,” the EU said in a statement.
At a meeting of the Local Consultative Group in Dhaka, European ambassadors urged the government to share the draft of the amended labour law with them so they could suggest corrective measures.
“The EU ambassadors clearly said they do not want to revoke the GSP facility. However, they urged the government to share the proposed labour law with them so that no such situation is created in future,” a finance ministry official said.
The EU ambassadors said their main concern was how to ensure better working environment for garments factory workers in Bangladesh.
* Govt yet to decide on TU activities in EPZs:
The government is yet to decide whether it would allow trade union (TU) activities in the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) of the country in line with the suggestion made by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) office, a secretary to the government said.
“The existing laws related to BEPZA (Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority) will expire at the end of this year and the government is yet to decide whether the EPZs would be brought under the purview of the labour law,” said labour secretary Mikail Shipar after an inter-ministerial meeting on issues concerning the GSP cancellation by the US and updating the labour and safety standards in the country’s apparel sector.
* Committee formed to pinpoint loopholes in labour law:
In the wake of suspension of GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) facility by the US government for Bangladesh, the government on Monday formed a high-profile committee to pinpoint loopholes in the existing labour law and put forward recommendations to make it more time befitting one.
* Full freedom for trade unionism:
Govt moves to amend labour law to win back GSP from US
In a desperate bid to regain a duty waiver from the US, the government has decided to give workers full freedom to run trade unions in factories.
Parliament, amid pressure from the US and the European Union, two main export destinations for Bangladesh, is likely to pass the amended labour law on July 14.
It will be the government’s first visible step to regain a trade privilege scheme known as the generalised system of preferences (GSP) that the Obama administration scrapped on June 27, citing “serious shortcomings” in safety and labour standards.
The cabinet approved the proposed labour law on May 13.
Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, minister for expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment, said, “The main purpose of the amending the law is to establish a warm relationship between workers and owners through trade unions.”
But the workers must maintain discipline in factories, said Mosharraf, also chairman of a parliamentary sub-committee on labour law reforms.
* Bangladesh Government to Review Deficient Labour Law Proposal:
The ITUC is encouraged that the government of Bangladesh has heeded the demands of the international trade union movement to continue to improve its draft labour legislation.
The government is reported to have decided to review proposed amendments which had already been approved by the cabinet and a parliamentary committee. The decision by the US to suspend trade preferences due to Bangladesh’s continued non-compliance with ILO standards no doubt influenced the government’s decision. The EU is also in the process of reviewing market access for Bangladesh exports.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “The hard work of trade unions and the US decision to suspend trade preferences seems to have balanced out the dominance of employer interests over the Bangladesh government’s decisions on labour law. But we are still concerned that backdoor lobbying and influence from powerful garment bosses will weaken the government’s last-minute decision to finally accept that workers’ rights must be respected. The government must take this opportunity and make sure it gets it right.”
* Existing labour law better than the proposed draft:
Says experts at a seminar on the garment sector
The proposed amendment to the labour law, which is expected to be finalised this month, still have some provisions that go against the garment workers’ interests, experts said yesterday.
“In some areas, the existing law is better than the draft proposal,” said AKM Nasim, senior legal counsellor of the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity (ACILS).
“Take for instance, the provision for owners to terminate workers for “arson, vandalism and obstruction to work” — no such words are present in the existing labour law.”
Nasim’s comments came at a discussion on “Creating better environment for garments workers and improving working conditions in the readymade garment sector: reforming the labour law”, organised by the National Human Rights Commission at BRAC Centre Inn in the city.
The revision has also curtailed the service benefits, especially of the garment workers, as factory owners would be able to dismiss workers for any misconduct, he said.
* Apparel workers may form TUs sans informing owners:
Govt not considering trade unions for EPZs
The government has initiated the process of bringing about necessary changes in the proposed amendment to the labour law to make it time-befitting, aiming to retain the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility in the US market, official sources said.
Inclusion of some provisions like allowing trade unions without informing the apparel factory owners, enhancement of maternity leave and gratuity facilities and sharing profits with the workers in the labour law are under active consideration of the government, they added.
The committee recently held meetings with both labour leaders and garment owners to take their opinions.
“The provision of informing the factory owner about formation of a trade union is likely to be dropped from the existing labour law as there is allegation of sacking or harassment when such a move is taken to form any labour union,” Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan told the FE late this week.
However, the government is not considering allowing trade unions in the Export processing Zones (EPZs), he said adding there is a welfare fund for workers at the EPZs through which they can bargain for their rights.
“We are reviewing the issues related to safety standards and trade unions, profit sharing, maternity leave and gratuity benefits aiming to make the existing law more labour welfare-oriented,” Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar said
* Maintaining labour standards:
The latest government move to re-examine the existing labour law and make a new piece of legislation by parliament, has come in response to demands from different circles.
It has come in the wake of the suspension of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) on Bangladeshi goods by the US administration. Furthermore, it has come at a time when the European Union (EU), which announced its decision about not toeing the US line, has sought a copy of the earlier draft law for scrutiny at a high-level meeting to be held in Geneva on July 08. The meeting will focus on labour rights, safety and health at the workplace and responsible business conduct. The duty- and quota-free access of Bangladesh’s exports, including apparel items, to the EU market has greatly helped the socio-economic development of the country over the years.
In case of the USA, the suspension of the GSP facility does not much affect Bangladesh’s exports of apparels because the latter do not enjoy duty-free market access there.
The non-apparel exports to the US market will be adversely hit by this but such items fetch a very small amount of money, in terms of export receipts, from the USA. Moreover, the USA accounts only for about one-fourth of Bangladesh’s aggregate export earnings in the apparel sector. But earnings from the EU market constitute about 40 per cent of its total export receipts by the sector. Nonetheless, the suspension of the GSP facility for Bangladesh’s exports to the USA has other implications.
* UN hoping to expand fair labour programme in BD:
Better Work, a United Nations programme credited with making some improvements to working conditions in Cambodia’s garment industry could soon open up shop in Bangladesh, where the industry’s worst-ever disaster killed over 1,100 in April, a report published in the Wall Street Journal said Saturday.
The programme run by the International Labour Organization and the International Finance Corporation, could start mobilizing operations in Bangladesh within weeks of the conclusion of this month’s parliamentary session there, provided the government succeeds in reforming its labor laws, program manager for Better Work at the IFC Amy Luinstra said.
The highly touted programme monitors factories, publishes reports on its findings and offers training for factories and workers so that they are up to speed on safety and fair-labor standards, it added.
* Leaders sceptical of labour law’s intl standard on amendment:
A number of national and international-level labour leaders are in doubts about whether the proposed amendments to the labour law in Bangladesh would be of an internationally accepted standard one or not, in terms of the provisions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, according to sources.
On its part, the government is making its own exercise for revisiting the proposed amendments, before they are placed in parliament for enactment of a new piece of legislation.
The labour leaders and observers have expressed their scepticism as the government has shifted its stances, at different stages, on the recommendations, made by the workers. The recommendations were accepted during the Tripartite Labour Law Review Committee and the Tripartite Consultative Council (TCC) meetings while drafting the amendments to the law.
* Proposed labour law: A critique by a trade unionist:
In the aftermath of the Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza tragedy, the labour law of Bangladesh is on the focus not only at home but also abroad.
When the 18th session of the Jatiya Sangsad (JS) resumes on July 14, the government will pass the proposed Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act, 2013, according to Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain.
The draft law was placed in parliament on June 05 and approved by the Cabinet on July 01. The Cabinet also decided to form a review committee to suggest amendment to the draft law. An 11-member review committee, headed by Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, was constituted on Monday. A critique of the draft law is now in order.
The source of our Labour Law is our Constitution, ILO Conventions ratified by Bangladesh and the Industrial Relation Ordinance (IRO) 1969. Bangladesh is a member of ILO. I quote below some articles from our Constitution and ILO Core Convention on fundamental rights of workers, right to organise and bargain collectively without outside interference.
* EU wants labour law revision:
Revision of the labour law by Parliament would be the ‘first true test’ of Bangladesh’s commitment to improving working conditions after the devastating Rana Plaza building collapse, the EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has said.
Gucht said at a press briefing in Geneva after a high-level meeting on Monday that they were ready to help Bangladesh but stressed need to adopt a new law ‘at the end of this week or early next week’.
“The objective is to beef up crucial aspects of the Labour Law – notably freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining as well as improved occupational safety and health,” he said.
The EU Trade Commissioner hosted the meeting styled ‘Staying Engaged – A Sustainability Compact with Bangladesh’ in view of “improving conditions for workers in Bangladesh” after the recent disasters in its garment manufacturing industry.
* RMG workers must have union rights:
Labour leaders at The Daily Star-BILS roundtable press for inclusion of effective trade union in amended labour law, ensuring workers’ safety
Labour leaders have called for effective plant-level workers union in the garment sector and rejected the “participation committee” mentioned in the draft amendment to the labour law as it was no alternative to trade unions.
They expressed concern that the amended law due to be passed in parliament this week might not live up to the expectation of the country’s garment workers as they strive to get a large platform to voice their demands. The participation committee mentioned in the draft is to be formed with all stakeholders, including labour leaders and garment workers.
The law is one of the key factors that might determine whether Bangladesh regains trade preferences in the US market or loses preferential market access to the European Union.
The parliament begins its session today with a task to stamp its
approval on a number of bills including the Labour Law (amendment).
The workers’ concern came at a roundtable styled “Safe Workplace: Recent Experience and Way Forward” at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka yesterday. Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), which promotes the causes of working people and trade unions, and The Daily Star, the country’s mass
circulated English newspaper, jointly organised the programme. BILS Secretary General Nazrul Islam Khan said ensuring workers’ safety should be a matter of utmost importance. It should be ensured forthe country’s sake, not to bow to mounting pressure from abroad.
* Trade unionism to be set free:
JS to pass key amendment to labour law today
The parliament is set to pass a landmark amendment to the labour law today, a move that will bring in major changes in the way trade unions function in the country.
The amendment comes in a bid to appease the Obama administration to regain the duty benefits suspended by the US on June 27 on grounds of poor labour rights and unsafe working conditions.
A total of 87 sections of the 2006 labour law have been amended to make it time-befitting.
Firstly, the lack of freedom to associate, one of the sticking issues for Western countries and advocacy groups, has been dealt away with the amendment.
The modification to Section 178 means employees would no
longer need approval from factory owners to form trade unions. From now, workers would just need to apply to the labour directorate for authorisation. But AKM Nasim, senior legal counsellor at Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, is sceptical if it would have much success.
“Workers will still face difficulties in registration of trade unions as the director of labour will enjoy discretionary power.”
* Punish culprits behind factory tragedies:
Labour leaders and legal experts suggest at roundtable on workplace safety, organised by The Daily Star and BILS
Top labour leaders and legal experts yesterday called for increased manpower and clout for the labour department so that those responsible for factory tragedies do not go unpunished.
“The weakness of the labour department is well-known — the department is not accountable.
The country has witnessed frequent industrial accidents due to failure of the labour directorate,” Abdur Razaque Khan, a senior advocate of Supreme Court, said.
Roy Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of the local arm of IndustriALL, an international advocacy group, said the country’s garment sector has been
struck with 56 incidents since 1990. “But no exemplary punishment was handed out.”
The comments came at a roundtable on safe workplace, organised by The Daily Star and Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka. Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, said the requisite regulatory institutions did not develop in the country to keep pace with the garment sector’s phenomenal growth.
“The lack of exemplary punishment for offenders in the garment sector is very unfortunate. Merely arresting the culpable party wouldn’t do — they have to be
sent to jail. But nobody was convicted — ever.”
* JS passes Labour (Amendment) Bill:
The bill was passed keeping the provisions of allowing trade unionism in factories, ensuring safety measures for workers at their workplace
The parliament on Monday passed the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill, 2013 to make the existing law time befitting for workers’ welfare.
Labour and Employment Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Razu moved the bill which was later passed in voice vote, reports BSS.
The bill was passed keeping the provisions of allowing trade unionism in factories, ensuring safety measures for workers at their workplace, introducing compulsory group insurance and stopping children to be involved in hazardous works. To make the law time-befitting, a total of 87 sections of the 2006 labour law, first of its kind in the country, have been amended.
According to the amendments, employees would no longer need approval from factory owners to form trade unions.
With the passage of the bill, workers would just need to apply to the labour
directorate for authorisation.
The amendment also allows trade unions to be formed in the different
administrative wings of a factory, something not permitted under the existing law.
read more. & read more.
* Trade unionism set free:
The parliament Monday passed an amended labour law that allows full freedom for trade unionism in the industries.
Labour and Employment Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju placed the Labour Law (amendment 2006)-2013, bill in the parliament, which was passed by voice votes by the treasury bench lawmakers amid absence of the opposition MPs. Twenty six more amendments were also tabled in the parliament.
Mujibul Haque and Junaid Ahmed Polok, two treasury bench lawmakers, proposed the new amendments.
The amendment came in a bid to appease the Obama administration to regain the duty benefits suspended by the US on June 27 on grounds of poor labour rights and unsafe working conditions.
* JS passes Labour Amendment bill ensuring better conditions for workers:
The much-talked ‘Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill, 2013’ aiming to protect the interests and rights of the workers and ensure their safety was passed on Monday in Parliament through voice vote and in absence of the opposition lawmakers.
According to the amendment, employees would no longer need approval from factory owners to form trade unions.
Workers would just need to apply to the labour directorate for authorization.
The amendment bill, moved by Labour and Employment Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju, also sought to protect the interests of industrial workers.
It was also aimed at increasing the productivity through ensuring welfare of the workers.
The amendment also allows trade unions to be formed in the different administrative wings of a factory, which was not permitted under the present law.
Worker’s Party chief Rashed Khan Menon, treasury bench member Junaid Ahmed Palak, and Jatiya Party member Mujibul Haque Chunnu brought some amendment proposals on the bill along with eliciting public opinion.
Among those, a number of amendment proposals brought by Palak and Chunnu were accepted by the House and the rest were rejected through voice vote.
Opposition lawmakers were absent during the passage of the Bill.
* Stronger labour law in Bangladesh after garment factory collapse:
Bangladesh was under pressure to adopt a better labour law after
Bangladesh approved on Monday a labour law to boost worker rights, including the freedom to form trade unions, after a factory building collapse in April killed 1,132 garment workers and sparked debate over labour safety and rights.
The legislation puts in place provisions including a central fund to improve living standards of workers, a requirement for 5 percent of annual profits to be deposited in employee welfare funds and an assurance that union members will not be transferred to another factory of the same owner after labour unrest.
* More clout for workers:
New law passed in parliament to give workers greater freedom to form trade unions, improve their living standards
An amended labour law got passage in parliament yesterday to boost worker rights and ensure freedom to form trade unions, a breakthrough that is expected to help Bangladesh regain the GSP status in the US market.
The law puts in place provisions including a central fund to improve living standards of workers, and a requirement for 5 percent of annual profits of a company to be deposited in employee welfare funds.
Labour and Employment Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju placed in parliament the Labour Law (amendment)-2013 bill, which was passed by voice votes by the treasury bench lawmakers in absence of the opposition MPs.
* JS passes bill to protect workers’ rights, safety:
5.0% profit to be deposited to provident, welfare funds
The Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) Monday passed the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill 2013, incorporating some provisions including allowing formation of trade unions without informing the factory owners.
Other provisions including resolution of conflicts over legal financial rights through
arbitration, ensuring safety measures for workers at their workplaces, mandatory election for workers’ participation committees and introducing compulsory group insurance policies have also been included in the new law.
Besides, the law also includes provisions for formation of a central fund to improve living standards of workers, depositing a 5.0 per cent net profit of companies with different workers’ welfare and provident funds and restricting transfer of trade union members from one factory to another of the same owner after any labour unrest.
read more. & read more.
* Trade union allowed, child labour curbed:
In a major development, the national parliament on Monday passed Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill, 2013 to ensure workers’ welfare in the ready-made garment [RMG] sector following the deadly Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1,129 people.
Labour and Employment Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Razu moved the historic bill, which was passed, in the House getting unanimous support from the lawmakers with keeping the provisions of allowing trade unionism in the factories.
Bangladesh, the world’s second largest garment exporter, has been under intense international pressure to overhaul labour laws while the US last month cancelled GSP facilities raising allegation of poor safety in the apparel workplaces.
Although Dhaka initially expressed outrage at US President Barack Obama’s decision to cut GSP facility, the ruling Awami League government swiftly drew up legislative reforms apparently to make happy other Western retailers, especially the EU.
Officials said, the new law will ensure safety measures for workers at their workplaces and child laboring will be highly restricted in hazardous works. At the same time, the new laws will make compulsory group insurance for the garment workers.
* Bangladesh overhauls factory safety laws:
Activists say they have raised concerns over legislation passed following deadly factory collapse in April.
Bangladesh has approved a new labour law to strengthen employees’ rights and improve workplace safety, following a factory building collapse that killed more than 1,100 people.
Parliament passed the “historic” legislation, drawn up in the wake of the factory collapse in April that spotlighted appalling conditions and the lack of rights for workers at the country’s 4,500 garment factories.
The new law “ensured full trade union rights” for millions of labourers, including those in factories making clothes for Western retailers, the head of the parliamentary committee on labour issues said.
Local union leaders said they were studying the new legislation.
“We had raised some concerns. We hope they have addressed those issues. Otherwise this legislation will be a futile exercise,” labour leader Wajedul Islam told AFP.
* The Bangladesh Labor Law (Ammendmend) Bill 2013 Passed in the Parliament:
Bangladesh Labor Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 was passed on Monday 15 July 2013 in the National Parliament here in Bangladesh.
The new law has seen amendments to a total of 87 sections of the Labor Act 2006. The bill came after a factory building collapse in April which killed more than 1,132 garment workers and sparked debate over labor safety and rights. This caused increasing international pressure boosting the drive to bring forward this much awaited amendment.
Tax concessions offered by Western countries and low wages have helped turn Bangladesh’s garment sector into the country’s largest employment generator with annual exports worth $21 billion.
Sixty percent of exports go to Europe.
Some extracts of the amendment are provided in this report.
However, these amendments already met with criticism regarding its claim to have maintained international standards.
The chief criticisms that has risen after this amendment can be outlined as follows:
1. There are discriminatory anti-strike provisions in the law favor foreign investors by prohibiting strikes in any establishment during the first three years of operation if it is owned by foreigners or is established in collaboration with foreigners.
2. The amended law also seeks to redirect attention to so-called “Participation Committees” and “Safety Committees,” largely powerless bodies made up of management and workers.
3. The compensation amount being too low to drive any change of attitude from the owners.
Apart from the amendment, criticisms include the fear that Mr. Soheil Rana of Rana Plaza might go unscratched, just like Mr. Delwar Hossain of Tazreen Factory Fire and also the owner of Spectrum Garment collapse.
The concern over not solving the labor leader Aminul Islam’s murder case also have continued to be a major criticism and is believed to be among the major barriers to protecting the interest of the workers and ensuring security for their freedom to associate.
* Workers rights still limited in Bangladesh: HRW:
Amendments to Bangladesh’s labour law make some improvements but still fall far short of protecting worker’s rights and meeting international standards, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
Bangladesh’s donors and international investors should press the government to make further amendments to the law to fully ensure workers’ rights to form unions, bargain collectively, and participate in workplace decisions on safety.
“The Bangladesh government desperately wants to move the spotlight away from the Rana Plaza disaster, so it’s not surprising it is now trying to show that it belatedly cares about workers’ rights,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director.
“This would be good news if the new law fully met international standards, but the sad reality is that the government has consciously limited basic workers’ rights while exposing workers to continued risks and exploitation.”
read more. & read more.
* Labour law amendment: HRW finds workers’ rights still at risk:
Amendments to Bangladesh’s labour law make some improvements but still fall far short of protecting worker’s rights and meeting international standards, says the Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Bangladesh’s donors and international investors should press the government to make further amendments to the law to fully ensure workers’ rights to form unions, bargain collectively, and participate in workplace decisions on safety, according to a web release of New York-based global rights watchdog.
The right to strike will remain burdened by a cumbersome bureaucratic process and the requirement that two-thirds of the union’s membership would have to vote for a strike, a small improvement over the previous requirement of three-quarters of the membership.
The government will be able to stop a strike if it decides it would cause “serious
hardship to the community” or is “prejudicial to the national interest,” terms that are not defined but can easily be misused.
“The government has not only missed a golden opportunity to get rid of provisions that limit workers’ rights, it has even snuck into the law new and harmful regulations,” Robertson said. “Even after Rana Plaza, the government still is not fully committed to the protection of workers’ rights and safety.”
The revised Labour Act could also have a major negative impact on unions by expanding government control over unions’ access to foreign funding.
A major test of the government’s commitment will be implementation of provisions that protect worker safety and the rights to organize and collective bargaining. The ruling Awami League is backed by factory owners and has many members of parliament who own factories.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
& read more.
* Labour law amendments termed ‘anti-worker’:
The latest amendments to the country’s labour law have evoked strong criticism in both local and international arenas as different rights groups have termed it ‘anti-worker’ and ‘pro-employer’ one.
Both the local and international rights groups called on Bangladesh’s donors and international investors to press the government to make further amendments to the law to fully ensure workers’ rights to form unions, bargain collectively, and participate in workplace decisions on safety.
Terming the amended law as ‘inhumane’ and ‘black’ one, Vice Chairman of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) Mojibur Rahman Bhuiyan said the amended law did not at all consider the proposals of the trade unions of Bangladesh, the international trade unions or the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to allow all workers to form and join trade unions as per ILO conventions 87 and 98.
“Thirty per cent membership requirement to form a union is an unacceptable one where there are more than ten, 20, 30 or 40 thousand workers work in one factory,” he told the FE Tuesday.
* BGMEA seeks support of all to avoid TU misuse:
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) on Tuesday sought the cooperation of all so that the readymade garment industry is not affected because of the misuse of trade unionism (TU).
Parliament on Monday passed the much-talked-about ‘Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill, 2013’ aiming to protect the interests and rights of the workers and ensuring their workplace safety.
The apex trade body of the apparel sector welcomed the government initiative and said, “It’s a timely decision of the present government. A good number of provisions have been inserted in the amended law to protect the workers’ rights. It eased the process for the workers to do trade union.”
The BGMEA hoped that the workers would avail themselves of opportunities related to heath, education and safety, and will help the sector progress further.
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* Left parties, labour leaders reject new labour law:
Left-leaning parties, experts and labour leaders rejected the amended labour law passed by parliament on Monday saying that the new law ignored the rights of factory workers, the garment workers in particular.
They said that the new law fastened the workers more tightly to protect the interest of the factory owners which jeopardised the amendment of the Bangladesh Labour Law 2006.
They also said that Bangladesh Labour Law (amendment) 2013 passed by the House through voice vote did not favour the factory workers regarding their rights to form trade unions and enjoy profit sharing, gratuity, maternity leave, job security and compensation.
At a meeting on the day, the left leaders said that the amended law did not consider the labourers working at EPZs, farmlands and households, ignoring their trade union rights.
The labour law would not ensure implementation of the trade unions rights in the mills and factories, especially in the garment factories, the coordinator of the alliance Saiful Huq said.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, however, praised the amended labour law as it offered more benefits for the workers, according to a release sent by the association on Tuesday.
Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies assistant executive director Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed told New Age that the new law did not bring any positive change for the workers.
The experts and labour leaders also said that the new labour law did not simplify the process of forming trade unions in garment sector. Instead, the law imposed condition of obtaining government permission to have external help for trade unions.
Mohammad Mojibur Rahman Bhuiyan, general secretary of Bangladesh Mukto Sramik Federation, said that the amendment did not produce any change offering the workers the right to elect their leaders according to their own choice.
* Labour law attracts mixed responses:
The latest labour law, passed in parliament on Monday, was met with mixed responses from industry and worker leaders.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association hailed the passage of the law, describing it as a timely move. “The amended law puts in place some provisions that will ensure worker rights.”
Although the garment sector’s apex trade body lauded the simplification of rules to form trade unions, it urged all to refrain from misusing it. “The law will also help foster a good relationship between the owners and workers as it has increased workers’ benefits.”
In a statement, Bangladesh Labour Rights Forum said the new law would only serve the interests of the owners.
“Although the new law allows trade unions in the factories, it does not allow so in factories located inside the export processing zones.”
* Not enough protection for workers in new labour law:
Labour leaders, groups and human rights organisations have come down hard on the newly amended labour law.
Although the amended law accommodated some improvements, they said it still fell far short of ensuring enough safeguards for the workers, recommending the donors and international investors to press the government to make further changes.
On Monday, parliament passed the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill 2013 keeping provisions for allowing trade unionism in factories without the owner’s permission, ensuring safety measures for workers, introducing compulsory group insurance and stopping children from being involved in hazardous work.
While welcoming the amendments, Kalpana Akter, a leader of the Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity, observed that there was still scope for the factory owners to harass the workers.
“The bureaucratic process to form trade unions is lengthy and cumbersome and workers will not dare to form unions out of fear of losing jobs,” Kalpana told the Dhaka Tribune.
“The bottom line is that most of the legislators are factory owners. Quite naturally, the changes brought in the labour law will protect more of their interests than those of the workers,” she said.
* Labour law 2013: many steps backwards:
Rights groups argue that the country has taken numerous steps backwards with the labour law 2013, although it is often billed as a landmark.
“This would be good news if the new law fully met international standards, but the sad reality is that the government has consciously limited basic workers’ rights while exposing them to continued risks and exploitation,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, told The New York Times.
Although the new law is said to offer workers the full freedom to organise, the reality is far from it, said Nazrul Islam Khan, president of Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Sramik Dal, the labour wing of the opposition party BNP.
“The amended labour is not worker friendly as it will favour the owners only,” he said, adding that the government did not take into consideration the suggestions made of the labour leaders.
Take, for instance, the 10 percent threshold for signatories to form a trade union that they advocated for, to facilitate unionising.
* Halfhearted labor reform in BD:
Under increasing international pressure to address problems in its clothing industry, legislators in Bangladesh this week changed the country’s labor law to make it easier for workers to form unions.
But the changes fall far short of what is needed and are unlikely to do much to prevent the fires, building collapses and other tragedies that have claimed hundreds of lives in recent years.
Since the collapse of a factory building killed more than 1,100 workers in April, the Bangladeshi government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been trying to show that it is cracking down on lax safety standards that plague its garment industry, which is a major supplier to Western retailers like Wal-Mart, Gap and H&M. More unionized workers can bring greater pressure on factory owners to improve safety.
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* Labour leaders censure amended labour law:
Different labour organisations on Friday demanded that undemocratic sections of the lastly amended labour law must be crapped to make the law worker-friendly.
At different rallies in the city, they said that the amended law would not be worker-friendly and would serve the interests of the factory owners.
Parliament passed a bill in the just ended budget session brining amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006.
The Dhaka city unit of Samajtantrik Sramik Front and Garments Sramik Oikya Forum organised the rallies in front of the National Press Club demanding further amendment to the law.
Addressing the Oikya Forum rally, its president Mushrefa Mishu said that the amended law would not help the establishment of trade unions in the garment sector, the largest sector for workers.
‘Moreover,’ she said, ‘the amended law widens the scope of terminating the workers by the factory owners for raising protests.’
* New Bangladesh Law Fails Again to Protect Workers’ Rights:
Long-awaited amendments to Bangladesh’s Labour Act passed by the parliament earlier this week fail to protect workers’ rights to freedom of association, falling well short of international labour standards.
These obstacles to organising a union and bargaining collectively with employers will continue to make it exceedingly difficult for workers to negotiate for fair wages and safe and decent conditions.
The absence of unions in the vast majority of workplaces has up to now kept wages at poverty levels and has allowed employers to force workers to work in dangerous, even fatal conditions. The Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions disasters have shown how vulnerable workers can be without the protection of strong unions.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary said, “Bangladesh’s workers and the international community had high expectations that the government would finally legislate to protect the rights of workers. It appears that once again factory owners triumphed over their employees through backroom lobbying and their own political power as members of parliament. While the new law does reflect some positive changes, including on occupational safety and health, the government largely failed to make good on its obligations to improve fundamental workers’ rights.”
* ITUC finds amended labour law far short of int’l standard :
The Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has criticised the amended Bangladesh Labour Act 2013, passed by the parliament last week, stating that it is ‘falling well short of international labour standards’.
The ITUC, an affiliation of 308 organisations of 153 countries and territories, called on the government of Bangladesh to be serious about enforcement of provisions of the act, including the ones against-anti-union discrimination as well as occupational and health safety.
The ITUC observed that entire categories of workers, such as hundreds of thousands employed in the country’s export processing zones, were still banned from forming trade unions and they are only allowed to form associations, which have little power in practice to improve the working conditions in the zones.
In its official website this week, the ITUC said the Rana Plaza and the Tazreen Fashions disasters have shown how vulnerable workers could be without the protection of strong unions. It added that the obstacles in the law to organising a union and bargaining collectively with employers would continue to make it exceedingly difficult for workers to negotiate for fair wages and safe and decent conditions.
* No plan yet to bring EPZs under Labour Law: Mikail Shipar:
Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar on Sunday said the government has no plan yet to bring Export Processing Zones (EPZs) under the Labour Law allowing them to engage in trade unionism.
“The issue of EPZ isn’t mentioned there (Labour law). The government has no plan yet to bring EPZs under the Labour Law. There’s an embargo till 2013,” he told reporters at a press conference at the Foreign Ministry.
On formulation of rules and regulation to effectively implement the Labour Law, Mikail Shipar said the government has taken necessary steps, and two committees — national and another subcommittee — will soon be formed in this regard.
Responding to a question, the Labour Secretary said there is a proposal to convert Labour Department into Labour Directorate with an increased workforce. “The proposal is now at the Public Administration Ministry.”
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* No decision on trade union in EPZ:
EU and the US pressure Bangladesh to establish trade union rights inside the EPZs
The government is yet to make a decision about allowing trade unionism in the export processing zones (EPZs) after 2013, says Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar.
“EPZ is operating under an act which will be expired at the end of 2013, and after that, workers are likely to get more rights related to freedom of association,” the secretary said at a press briefing held in the foreign ministry yesterday.
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni called the press meet to apprise the journalists of recent diplomatic developments with regard to labour issues.
Bangladesh is currently under pressure from the European Union (EU) and the US to establish trade union rights inside the EPZs, in the same way they are to be established outside.
The labour secretary said two committees would be formed soon to formulate rules and regulations about the labour law amendment (2013).
“Before I came here [the press conference], I had a meeting with the director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). We are going to invite them (ILO) formally to help us formulate these rules and regulations,” he said.
* Trade union in EPZs from next January:
Dhaka commits to EU to protect GSP facility
Dhaka has committed to the European Union to withdraw restriction on trade union activities in the country’s export processing zones from next January to protect its trade preference for export items in the EU countries.
The commerce ministry officials said the restriction should be removed in a way that the factory workers in EPZs, if necessary, may call strikes to protect their rights.
Dhaka has also committed to scrap the ‘blacklisting’ system through which factory owners in consultation with the EPZ officials identified workers allegedly damaged working environment.
However, Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority member Syed Nurul Islam told New Age on Monday that they were not aware of the move. He said the government was yet to inform them its commitments to the EU.
He said the EPZ workers enjoyed labour rights as per government rules adopted in 2010.
Labour secretary Mikhail Shiper said the act will remain valid until the end of this year. The government has to adopt new rules, he said.
* New Bangladesh labour law well short of global standards:
New amendments to Bangladesh’s Labour Act fall well short of international standards and could put workers’ lives at risk, international unions have warned.
The amendments, which were passed last week, fail to protect workers’ rights to freedom of association which could make it increasingly difficult to negotiate for higher wages and safer, fairer working conditions.
Labour leaders say the absence of unions in the vast majority of Bangladeshi workplaces has kept wages at poverty levels for decades and has fostered dangerous, even deadly working conditions.
* Labour Act lacks global standards:
Labour leaders say the absence of unions in the vast majority of Bangladeshi workplaces has kept wages at poverty levels for decades and has fostered dangerous, even deadly working conditions
New amendments to Bangladesh’s Labour Act fall well short of international standards and could put workers’ lives at risk, international unions have warned on Monday.
The amendments, which were passed last week, fail to protect workers’ rights to freedom of association which could make it increasingly difficult to negotiate for higher wages and safer, fairer working conditions.
Labour leaders say the absence of unions in the vast majority of Bangladeshi workplaces has kept wages at poverty levels for decades and has fostered dangerous, even deadly working conditions.
The Rana Plaza building collapse in April this year in which 1,129 people were killed was the latest in a string of recent tragedies to hit the Bangladeshi garment sector.
Philip Jennings, UNI Global Union General Secretary said: “The workers of Bangladesh are the life blood of the country’s economy but they have been sold short by their own government yet again.”
“Protecting workers’ rights to join and form unions will allow them to fight for fairer and safer working conditions instead of risking their lives each time they set foot in an unsafe workplace. “Lives and livelihoods are on the line and we will not rest until every worker has the ability to exercise their rights.”
* ILO for further steps to fulfil obligations:
The amendments to the Bangladesh labour law have fallen short of several important steps called for by the International Labour Organization (ILO) supervisory system for bringing the law into conformity with ratified international labour standards, the ILO said Monday.
In a statement, the ILO also called on the government of Bangladesh to take the further steps necessary to fulfil its obligations under ratified conventions, as well as its commitments to labour law reforms made at the organisation’s International Labour Conference in June and commitments made in the Sustainability Compact agreed with the EU on July 8.
“An initial review suggests that the amendments did address some of the ILO’s specific concerns, while falling short of several important steps called for by the ILO supervisory system to bring the law into conformity with ratified international labour standards,” said the ILO.
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* ILO on new BD labour law- It falls short of int’l standard:
The United Nations labour agency said that amendments to the Bangladesh Labour Act “will hopefully prove to be a first step” in addressing workers’ rights and boosting occupational safety and health, but urged the Government to advance the reforms to more comprehensively protect workers.
“The ILO calls on the Government of Bangladesh to take the further steps necessary to fulfil its obligations under ratified conventions, as well as its commitments on labour law reform made at the Organization’s International Labour Conference in June and commitments made in the Sustainability Compact agreed with the EU on July 8,” the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) said in a statement on Monday.
“Important additional labour reforms will be required to fulfil the Government’s commitments and obligation and these should be undertaken as a matter of urgency,” the Geneva-based agency said, reiterating its willingness to develop and adopt further legislative proposals to address the conclusions and recommendations of the ILO supervisory bodies.
“The ILO also offers to work with urgency on the regulations required to implement the amendments and to build the capacity of the labour inspectorate to assume its new responsibilities,” the UN agency said.
* Bd-EU Sustainability Compact and the new Labour Law:
The agreement dubbed ‘Sustainability Compact’ between the European Union (EU) and Bangladesh, announced recently following a multi-stakeholder meeting in Geneva, is a political accord, although it traces its links to actions that should assume legal obligations on the part of Bangladesh.
Going by the conditions set out in the accord, it seems there will be the need to amend the Labour Law 2013, if not enact fresh laws, to ensure compliance. Curiously, the much-discussed compliance issue, so long tagged to the factory owners as their sole responsibility, has now shifted on to the state machinery as a clear means of guaranteeing implementation.
The Compact was announced in Geneva weeks after the US decision to suspend Bangladesh’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for alleged failure to exercise standard international practices on worker’s rights and workplace conditions. Following the US move, many in the international community wondered if the EU would soon follow suit, or if it would pursue a different approach toward spurring policy changes by the Bangladesh government.
* Labour law amendment very important, says EU envoy:
The European Union (EU) ambassador to Dhaka, William Hanna, has described the passage of the amended labour law in Parliament as very important, but laid emphasis on the implementation of the law for addressing the problems in the country’s readymade garments (RMG) sector.
“I think it is very important that Parliament has approved the labour law. Passing the laws is one thing but of course implementation is the key. The key part is important for us,” he told The Independent and two private TV channels on Sunday at his office in Gulshan.
The first thing was to pass the labour law in July and that has been done. The second thing is to implement it and to show that it is in place,” said the ambassador.
On the issue of safety, he said the government had committed to recruit 800 inspectors, of whom 200 would be appointed by the end of this year.
There was also a provision for setting up a database for all the inspections of the factories, he added.
Asked about the stipulation of some timeframes at the meeting in Geneva, the envoy said, “In the Compact, there are dates. Yes. It has made it more specific. The first date was that the legislation should be passed in July. Then there are number of dates towards the end of the year, recruitment of 200 inspectors by the end of the year. There are other dates in 2014.” A lot of the work on assessing progress will be carried out by the ILO, he added.
* Left leaders critical of new labour law:
Leaders of a left-leaning political party and a workers right body at separate protest rallies in the capital on Tuesday called on the Awami League-led government to amend the labour law bill passed in parliament to drop undemocratic sections of the law.
Meanwhile, Jatiya Sramik League, the labour front of the ruling Awami League, held a rally at Motijheel, welcoming the proposed law terming it as worker-friendly.
Jatiya Sangsad passed the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill-2013, on July 15 to formulate the law.
Jatiya Mukti Council, a left leaning political party, held a rally in front of the National Press Club, where the secretary of the party Faizul Hakim said that the proposed Bangladesh Labour Law-2013 would not be worker-friendly as it would serve the purposes of the factory owners.
Moreover, the proposed law would not ensure trade union rights of the workers and it would increase complications in implementing trade unions in the mills and factories, Faizul said.
Labour leaders Abdus Satter and Samiul Alam spoke at the rally.
The rally was followed by a protest procession that paraded different city roads.
* ILO for more labour law changes:
Amendments to the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 is the first step towards fulfilling government responsibilities, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has said, reports bdnews24.com.
Owners reopen RMG factories In a press statement on Monday, the UN agency said it was a positive move to ensure workers’ freedom of association, collective bargaining rights and addressing the need to boost occupational safety and health.
Later this year, the ILO will review the amended legislation to ascertain its compatibility with the international labour standards ratified by Bangla-desh.
However, the ILO said its initial review suggests that despite addressing some of its specific concerns, the amendments fall short of “several important steps called for by the ILO supervisory system to bring the law into conformity with ratified international labour standards”.
“Bangladesh has ratified ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining and is, thus, required to protect the rights contained therein,” said the statement.
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* Are stronger Bangladeshi Unions good for economics and politics? – a perspective:
The fallout from the April 24 collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh has had severe domestic and international reactions.
The international buyers and governments have responded vehemently to these events. Careful reappraisal of labor issues has been universally identified as a key area of reform.
The objective is to ensure workers’ safety and workers’ rights. Poor labor standards can adversely affect Bangladesh’s overall reputation in the exporting sector.
The government has been pressured to take a series of measures to improve workers’ safety. Representatives of the Bangladesh government, the European Union and the International Labor Organization met in Geneva on July 8, 2013 to promote improved labor standards and responsible business conduct in Bangladesh’s garment industry.
Following up on the commitments made in Geneva, Bangladesh’s legislature recently amended the Bangladesh Labor Law to provide improved protection, in law and practice, for the fundamental rights to freedom of association and the rights to collective bargaining, among others.
Are these good economics and good politics now and in the future?
As economists we know, in most situations, unions create economic distortions by pushing the wages of their members up relative to non-unionized employees.
Such wage increases have asymmetric impact on labor—the insiders benefit and the outsiders lose out. Unions may also create other distortions like discouraging employers from adopting certain technologies and efficiency-enhancing practices. On these grounds, reducing the power of unions is often mainstream economic advice.
The counterarguments rooted in economic theory typically refer either to the role of unions in securing a more equal distribution of income, especially by improving the pay of lower-grade workers, or to counterbalance the monopsony power firms may have in setting wages.
* Bangladesh not to immediately bring EPZs under labour law:
The Government of Bangladesh would not be immediately bringing the factories in the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) under the purview of the amended labor law, meaning workers would be barred from trade unionism.
Labor and employment secretary Mikail Shipar said in a press conference that the EPZs are run under the EPZ Act which would be expiring in December this year, and the Government has no immediate plans to bring them under the labor law.
Mr. Shipar said Bangladesh was under pressure from the European Union (EU) and the US to establish trade union rights inside the EPZs, similar to the way they are established outside the EPZs.
Two committees would be formed soon to formulate the rules and regulations about the labor law, he added.
* Labour minister lambasts ILO:
Labour and Employment Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju yesterday slammed the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for its statement that Bangladesh’s recently amended labour law falls short of international standards.
“Being a neutral body, the ILO cannot give such statement without holding discussions with the government, the ILO’s local office or other labour organisations,” Raju said at a press conference at his secretariat office in the capital.
The minister wondered how the ILO could give such statement while the amended law awaits the president’s approval.
“If necessary, we will write to the ILO to protest the statement,” he said.
The requirement of at least 30 percent workers’ representation for setting up a trade union has been kept to ensure discipline in trade unions in the ready-made garment sector.
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* Govt to protest ILO’s negative report: Razu:
Coming down heavily on the negative report of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO), Labour and Employment Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Razu today said the government will soon protest against it.
He said the President did not sign the bill yet on the amendment to the Labour Law and even its gazette yet to be published and thus the bill yet to be transformed into a law.
“Nonetheless a section of international media and associations made unexpected comments on the amendment to the labour law,” he added.
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* Govt terms ILO, int’l media criticisms misleading:
The government has rejected criticisms of international media and organisations including International Labour Organisation (ILO) regarding the amendments to Bangaldesh labour law saying those are ‘misleading’.
At a press briefing Labour and Employment Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju said since neither the gazette notification of the bill is yet to be published nor the English version of the law is available, such comments are unexpected.
Before getting any official documents and without discussion with concerned authorities, none should make comments, he added.
Amendments to the laobur law are matter of both multi-stakeholder and continuous process, he said adding there is still scope to incorporate or eliminate many issues in the law in future.
The parliament passed the bill of amended labour law 2013 aiming at increasing workers’ benefits, simplifying trade union formation, ensuring workers’ personal and workplace safety, bringing the workers who are contractually employed under labour law and launching better work programme and executing recommendations of the ILO, he explained.
When asked regarding the further review of the amended labour law, the minister said, “There is no scope for further review of it and the law amendment has no connection with the GSP pre-conditions.”
Replying to another question, the minister said he is hopeful that all including the EU and US will feel comfort with the amended labour law after the English version is available.
* Amendment to labour law inadequate:
As many national and international rights organisations and foreign buyers expressed their serious concern over workers’ rights and safety, especially after the Rana Plaza and Tazreen Garments tragedies, the government took steps to amend the Bangladesh Labour Law-2006 to ensure adequate rights for workers.
The National Parliament recently passed Bangladesh Labour Law (Amendment) bill 2013.
The government, after passing the bill, said that the new law was a major advancement in establishing workers’ rights, and that it would also bring more stability in the industrial sector. Whereas, immediately after passing of the bill, the international human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch, said that the new law will be inadequate for protecting rights of workers.
The Bangladesh committee of World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), in a national seminar on July 12, asked the government and drafting committee to correct mistakes and ambiguity in the law. 30 trade union organisations of the country also submitted their suggestion to the ministry concerned, and after passing of the bill they expressed their frustration over the new labour law.
They said that the amendment to the law was wrongly drafted; it is not equitable and thus it will go against fundamental rights of the workers.
* TUF rejects amended labour law:
The Bangladesh Trade Union Federation (TUF) rejected on Friday the Bangladesh Labour Law as was amended in the parliament recently.
To press home the demand the organisation also called for waging a movement.
The call came at a protest programme in front of the National Press Club in the city.
Speakers at the protest meeting said the amendments to the law were done to protect interests of the factory owners, though the Awami League-led government claimed that it went in favour of workers.
They said they had long been demanding trade union rights to protect interests of workers. But none of the previous government and the incumbent government paid heed to the rightful demand.
* Dhaka criticises ILO statement on labour law amendment:
Labour minister says he wonders how foreigners could comment on labour law as it is not yet available in English
Bangladesh will formally protest a statement by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that described the recently-amended labour law as “not satisfactory.”
At a press briefing at the ministry yesterday Labour Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju said: “Why is this type of statement issued? It is not correct to make such comments.”
He said the government was in touch with the ILO’s local office and would protest with a formal letter to the head office.
However, the minister also said: “We do not disown ILO.”
In mid July, parliament passed the Labour Law (amendment) 2013. A statement issued by ILO headquarters in Geneva on July 22 said: “An initial review suggests that the amendments did address some of the ILO’s specific concerns, while falling short of several important steps called for by the ILO supervisory system to bring the law into conformity with ratified international labour standards.”
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* US, BD agree to initiate talks on workers` rights:
The US and Bangladesh have agreed to initiate talks on workers` rights and safety in the South Asian country, weeks after the collapse of a commercial building in Dhaka in April that killed 1,129 people in one of the world`s worst industrial disasters.
An agreement in this regard was reached following the meeting between Trade Representative Michael Froman and Bangladesh Ambassador to the US Akramul Qader.
“No workers should have to sacrifice their safety or their basic rights in order to secure a livelihood for themselves and their families,” Froman said after the meeting.
“We look forward to renewed and sustained engagement with the Government of Bangladesh and other stakeholders to strengthen worker rights and safety through implementation of the Action Plan and through our coordinated efforts with the European Union and the International Labor Organization on the recently announced Sustainability Compact,” Froman said.
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* BGIUWC for democratic labour law in line with ILO Convention:
Garment workers’ leaders on Tuesday urged the government to announce a democratic labour law in line with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87 and 98 by reviewing the newly passed Labour Bill (Amendment) 2013.
The demand came from a press conference organised by Bangladesh Garment and Industry Workers Unity Council (BGIWUC) at the Dhaka Reporters Unity.
In a written statement, BGIWUC president advocate Delwar Hossain Khan said the Labour Bill (Amendment) 2013 has been passed by the parliament recently.
“We think, the bill is against the interest of the workers. The bill was not passed following the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87 and 98. We request the President not to give his assent to the bill,” he said.
* Workers’ interest ignored to protect interest of industries: Labour Secy:
Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar on Tuesday admitted that the government had to ignore to some extent the interest the workers in favour of the industries in the recent amendment of the labour law.
“The interest of the workers had to be ignored to some extent to protect the interest of the industries,” he said at the 53rd meeting of the Tripartite Consultative Committee (TCC) on labour affairs.
The TCC meeting was presided over by Labour Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Razu.
“There was tremendous time-bound international pressure for the amendment of the labour law,” Shipar said, adding that even a session of parliament had to be postponed to pass the recently amended law within the timeline.
Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, who was present in the meeting, equally regretted the haste in passing the labour law.
He admitted that the law was passed despite that fact that many issues were left unresolved in the previous TCC meeting.
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* Labour leaders urge govt to make workers’ friendly law:
Politicians and labour leaders on Saturday urged the Awami League led government to amend what they said ‘the undemocratic sections of the Labour law’ to make it workers’ friendly.
They made the call at a seminar on ‘Proposed Bangladesh Labour Law-2013 and the democratic rights of the workers,’ jointly organised by the Communist Party of Bangladesh and Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal at the CPB’s central office.
Bangladesh Labour (Amendment), Bill-2013, which was passed in the parliament recently did not ensure the rights of the workers’ but satisfied the interests of the mills and factory owners, they said.
Razequzzaman Ratan, the general secretary of Samajtantrik Sramik Front, readout a keynote paper at the seminar, where he said, they had expected that the Awami League led government would enact a democratic labour law by reforming Labour Law-2006, formulated by the BNP led government.
‘The Labour Law-2013 has not ensured the rights of the workers but it will serve the purposes of the owners,’ Razequzzaman said.
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* Slow progress in improving labour rights:
The government is walking on a thin rope as implementation of the commitments it made to the global community to improve labour rights situation in the country has lost momentum.
As many as 100 days have elapsed since the Rana Plaza caved in and the government has five months left to fulfil certain commitments.
The stakes are too high as it will not only harm over $20bn readymade garment industry and four million jobs but also tarnish the image of Bangladesh.
The government on May 4 gave a commitment to recruit additional 200 inspectors by December but till Aug 2 only four had been appointed. The deadline of April 30 for adopting a national occupational safety and health plan too has passed with no visible headway.
* The right to form trade union? Not in RMG:
Garment workers are facing the axe for attempted unionisation
Garment workers are losing jobs instantly after the factory owners getting noticed there is an effort to form a trade union a right assured by the law.
Leaders of different labour organisations alleged individual factories were taking such actions against the workers, who are making the efforts.
“Dozens of workers have already lost their jobs or faced suspension as they tried to form trade union,” Sirajul Islam Rony, president of Bangladesh National Garment Workers Employees League, told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.
“Today (Monday) at Star Garments Private Ltd, eight workers have been suspended soon after taking initiative to form a trade union and at Weltex garments 12-13 workers have been forced to resign,” he said
The incidents are taking place in many factories like Gazipur Eagle Eyes Design Ltd and Rumana Fashion Ltd, according to Rashidul Islam Raju, acting General Secretary of Bangladesh Mukto Sramik Federation.
“During the registration time for forming trade union, many workers have faced harassment, which is a clear violation of the newly amended labour law,” he said.
* Rules within three months to implement labour law:
The government will formulate necessary rules within the next three months aiming at implementing the country’s labour law, officials said.
The Bangladesh Labour Act of 2006 still lacks the required rules even though the Act was passed a couple of years back, they said adding the labour law was amended on three occasions with the latest change taking place in 2013.
“We will formulate the rules on the labour law that will describe its details for its smooth implementation,” Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar told the FE recently.
He said the ministry is working to formulate the rules within the shortest possible time.
* Govt to formulate rules to implement labour act:
The government is formulating rules and regulations for proper implementation of the newly passed Bangladesh Labour Act-2013.
To finalise the rules and regulations under the labour act within three months, the government formed two separate committees recently, labour ministry officials said.
Parliament passed the amended labour law on July 15 in the face of domestic and international pressure following the collapse of the Rana Plaza building on April 24, which killed more than 1,100 garment factory workers.
In 2009, the government initiated a process to amend the Bangladesh Labour Act-2006 following the demands mainly from the labour unions to make it consistent with the ILO Convention which was ratified by Bangladesh. The new labour law is also being criticised by labour leaders and right activists.
‘To ensure proper implementation of the new labour law we are formulating the rules and regulations very carefully and we have already urged the International Labour Organisation for technical support,’ joint secretary (Labour) Md Faizur Rahman told New Age on Thursday.
He said that two committees, one is rules and regulations formulating committee led by the labour secretary Mikail Shipar and another five-member working group led by the deputy secretary Md Aminul Islam have been working on the matter.
* Bringing EPZ under Labour Law: International working group to be formed:
Introducing Labour Law in the EPZs is one of the main conditions set by the US government in its Action Plan to reinstate GSP
An international working group will be formed to introduce Labour Law in the Export Processing Zones of Bangladesh under the US Action Plan, said official sources.
Earlier, the Plan asked to form a working group and now the word “international” has been included.
Introducing Labour Law in the EPZs is one of the main conditions set by the US government in its Action Plan to reinstate GSP.
Of the 16-point US Action Plan, Bangladesh government is working now to implement 12 points first including the introduction of Labour Law in the Export Processing Zones, said official sources.
A Cabinet Committee on Readymade Garment will review progress of implementation works at its meeting on Sunday, sad the sources.
According to the official sources, the commerce ministry has already identified some lack of coordination among the government agencies in implementing the Action Plan. The meeting will hold discussion to remove such lack of coordination.
There is still a shortage of inspectors for factories in the country. As per the Action, a number of 200 inspectors require to be appointed as one of the main conditions set by the US government to reinstate GSP by December. But only 35 inspectors have currently appointed by the Labour Ministry under a project.
* Govt plans to apply labour law in EPZs on a limited scale:
The government has moved forward to apply labour law in the export processing zones (EPZs) on a limited scale as part of its steps to make country’s merchandising sector labour friendly.
As part of the initiative to get the generalised system of preferences (GSP) facilities revived by the US government will examine application of which sections of the Bangladesh Labour Law 2006 will help protect foreign investments and make export oriented industries further vibrant alongside strengthening labour welfare.
The EPZs are being governed under the BEPZA Act 1980. These special economic zones have been kept out of the purview of the Employment of Labour (Standing Order) Act 1965, The Industrial Relations Ordinance-1969, and The Factories Act-1965 under section 8 of General Clauses Act 1987.
* SKOP asks govt to review, recast new Labour Law:
Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad (SKOP) on Friday observed that the newly enacted Bangladesh Labour Act 2013 will benefit the owners instead of workers and demanded its early review by the government, reports UNB.
The law has disappointed the workers by not allowing them to form trade unions without any restriction, SKOP leaders said at a press conference at the Col Taher auditorium in city’s Bangabandhu Avenue.
The provisions of the ILO (International Labour Organisations) conventions 87 and 98 have not been incorporated in the new labour law, although it was an election pledge of the present government, they added.
SKOP has submitted a memorandum in this regard to the Prime Minister’s Office and expressed the hope that the government would take quick action to recast the law.
SKOP leaders Mujibur Rahman Bhuiyan, Shahidullah Chowdhury and Wajedul Islam Khan were, among others, present at the press conference.
* SKOP demands labour law change:
Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad on Friday gave the government till September 15 to amend the Bangladesh Labour Law 2013 and theatened a movement, otherwise.
The leaders at a press conference at Taher Auditorium at Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal central office said that the 2013 law that amended the Labour Law 2006 would not be worker-friendly and would serve the interests of mills and factory owners.
Mohammad Zafrul Hasan, the general secretary of Jatiyatabadi Sramik Dal, also leader of the combine, said that the AL-led government was committed to formulate a democratic and worker- friendly labour law dropping undemocratic sections.
But the new law would not be worker-friendly and would serve the purpose of owners, Zafrul said.
The new law would not ensure the implementation of trade union in mills and factories.
SKOP already handed over a memorandum to the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, seeking changes in the new law, Zafrul said.
He gave the government till September 15 to amend the law. Otherwise, the combine would launch a movement to press for the demands, SKOP leaders said.
* An improvement but not comprehensive (part 1):
A critique of the Labour Law-2013
Labour is not a commodity like an apple or a television set that can be negotiated for the highest profit or the lowest price.
Work is part of everyone’s daily life and is crucial to a person’s dignity, well-being and development as a human being. Economic development should include the creation of jobs and working conditions in which people can work in freedom, safety and dignity. Economic development is not undertaken for its own sake but to improve the lives of human beings.
The export-oriented apparel industry, popularly known as readymade garments (RMG) occupies a unique position in the economy of Bangladesh. It is the largest exporting industry, which experienced a phenomenal growth during the last three decades.
By taking advantage of cheap labour and quota-based market in the European Union (EU) under the provision of Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), RMG attained a high profile in terms of economic growth of the country.
Bangladesh, the world’s second largest garment exporter, has been under intense international pressure to overhaul labour laws in the wake of the Rana Plaza tragedy, one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.
As many national and international rights organisations and foreign buyers expressed their serious concern over worker’s rights and safety, the government took steps to amend the Bangladesh Labour Law-2006 to ensure adequate rights for workers. Accordingly the Jatiya Sangsad passed the Bangladesh Labour Law (Amendment) Bill – 2013 on July15, 2013.
* It’s no use crying over spilled milk, time to act (part 2):
A critique of the Labour Law-2013
Despite government claim that the new labour law is a major advancement to establish worker’s rights which will bring stability in the industrial sector, critics expressed their concern, terming it “anti-worker” and “employer-friendly”.
Putting aside the balance of positives and negatives in the law, merely paper promises alone would not be sufficient. Safety regulations, minimum wage and labour laws have been consistently ignored for years. For instance, anti-union dismissal by the employers is widespread in Bangladesh.
Despite being illegal, this is the reality of working conditions, and disempowered workers have few options to resist. Given this context, consumer activism can make things happen. The consumers can initiate movements in pushing retailers to pressure producers to improve working standards.
Without organisation and empowerment, workers remain at the whim of the subcontracted employers. Whatever may be the letter of the law, in the context of gross asymmetries in power, the rules truly are made to be broken.
The empowerment of the worker is a powerful force for the creation of decent working conditions. Had the Rana Plaza workers been properly organised and their jobs secured, they would not have reported to work the day after cracks ominously developed in the building.
* Further amendment to labour law demanded:
Bangladesh Sanjukta Sramik Federation, a labour rights body, on Monday demanded further amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Act to repeal undemocratic provisions.
The federation leaders at a press conference at its Topkhana road office accused the ruling Awami League of betraying the workers of the country by amending the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 in 2013 to serve the interests of the owners of mills and factories.
In the 2008 election manifesto, the ruling Awami League had pledged to amnd the labour law to make it worker friendly, but it had amended the law keeping and making undemocratic provisions that would serve the interest of the owners, said the federation general secretary Mohammad Mokkadem Hossain.
The federation announced series of programmes pressing for further amendment to the labour law.
* Govt to increase punishment for violation of labour law:
A committee will submit its recommendations within 15 days
The government has decided to increase the punishment and fines for the violation of the labour law and the fire and building safety code, in a bid to regain GSP facilities of local export in the US market.
A senior commerce ministry official, seeking anonymity, said: “Commerce minister GM Quader formed a 13-member committee on Sunday, which will advise to amend existing laws and rules.”
He also said the newly formed committee, headed by commerce ministry Joint Secretary Atiqur Rahman, will submit its recommendations within 15 days.
* Cabinet sends back draft law to regulate RMG industry:
The cabinet on Thursday sent back the draft of the Textiles and Garment Industry Board Bill, 2013 after an altercation between the finance minister and the jute minister over a proposal to regulate the country’s apparel industry.
The textiles and jute minister, Abdul Latif Siddique placed the draft law, proposing setting up of a new body to regulate the export-oriented readymade garment industry at the weekly meeting of the cabinet at the secretariat.
‘Finance minister AMA Muhith opposed the idea of introducing a new law to regulate the garment sector, saying a new administration would rather hamper the growth of the crucial industry,’ a senior minister told New Age.
Muhith, a bureaucrat-turned politician, was immediately backed by home minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, also a retired bureaucrat, who said the apparel industry, which earns over $20 billion annually from export, was growing under a system and that should not be disturbed.
* Shafique urges labour court judges, lawyers to work sincerely:
Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed on Tuesday urged the judges and lawyers of labour courts to discharge their duties with sincerity for quick disposal of huge pending cases.
“Judges, lawyers and the disputing sides will have to come forward to create an environment for quick disposal of the labour disputes,” he said at the inauguration of the Legal Aid Cell at the Dhaka Labour Court.
Revealing that over 10,000 cases were currently pending with the labour courts in Dhaka, the minister said, “If the disputes or cases could be resolved quickly, the owners and the workers would have been benefited.”
* Shafique inaugurates legal aid cell for laborers :
Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed today inaugurated the legal aid cell for the laborers, saying, the cell would act as a shield to safeguard the legal rights of the workers.
The cell is situated in the Srama Bhaban in the capital.
“This cell will play a vital role in establishing the rights of the laborers. It would act as a shield in protecting the rights of distressed, poor and afflicted workers. It would also play an important role in developing the relations between the factory owners and laborers,” Barrister Shafique said.
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* Govt works on act for EPZ labour rights:
The government has plans to enact the EPZ Labour Act 2013 aimed at fully-fledged labour rights, including right to association and collective bargaining activities, that other workers enjoy outside the export processing zones.
The move, with the draft of the law now being in final stages, has been taken as part of the implementation of a United States Trade Representative ‘action plan’ to revive GSP facilities that were withdrawn in June because of poor labour standards in apparel factories, both in EPZs and outside.
The secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office, Molla Waheeduzzaman, also convener of the seven-member working group set up two months ago to review the existing EPZ0related laws and to recommend further amendments, if any, in the past week put the draft into the final form, the officials said.
‘An act on labour issues with EPZ workers in focus is under process to introduce labour rights in line with the International Labour Organisation convention,’ Mahbub Ahmed, secretary to the commerce ministry that which coordinates the implementation of the US ‘action plan’ involving government agencies, told New Age.
* Trade unionism a must: analysts:
Rights activists and labour leaders yesterday called for trade unions at all garment factories to give the workers a platform to ensure their rights.
They also favoured a system of determining the minimum wages for garments workers by considering the cost of living, and not just by taking food inflation into account.
Their pleas came at a national consultation with the United Nations mandate holders on women in the readymade garments sector in Bangladesh at BRAC Centre Inn in Dhaka.
The discussion was organised by Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development; Ain o Salish Kendra and Nijera Kori.
“The existence of trade unions is vital to fight to ensure workers’ rights,” said Heisoo Shin, a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Manufacturers should set minimum wages by following international standards under International Labour Organisation, Shin said. Increasing the buying power of garment workers will benefit the whole economy, she added.
“It will be unwise to fix the minimum wages by considering inflation. Factors such as the cost of education, health and others should also be taken into account,” said Khushi Kabir, coordinator of Nijera Kori.
Owners should ensure a minimum standard of living for the workers to increase their productivity and develop the sector, Kabir added.
* Workers don’t get legal redress for want of appointment letters:
A significant number of workers are being deprived of legal redress against their employers at the labour courts mainly because of not having appointment letters and identity cards, sources said.
They cannot move against their employers at the courts as they, in the absence of appointment letters and identity cards, fail to prove that they are workers of the respective companies or organisations, they said.
Depriving the workers of appointment letters and identity cards by their employers not only bars them to seek justice against infringement of their rights but also violates the Bangladesh Labour Act-2006.
The state of violation of their rights and law was found at the Labour Legal Aid Cell, a government institution, which provides free legal services to the workers to help ensure their rights.
* ILO calls for faster implementation of Bangla labour law:
Opening the conference “Bangladesh 2013: The Rising Demand for Labour Standards”, ILO Deputy Director General Gilbert Houngbo called for faster implementation of the new labour law to protect workers after the Rana Plaza building collapse which killed 1,130 workers in Bangladesh six months ago.
Mr. Houngbo underlined the need to maintain the momentum for further improvement of labour standards, in accordance with ILO recommendations and the EU Sustainability Compact.
“It is regrettable that only after the recent tragic events in Bangladesh all relevant parties have begun to understand the importance of labour standards, both for human rights and social justice, and also for social and economic development”, the ILO’s Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnerships said.
* Call to implement amended labour law to please RMG stakeholders:
Speakers at a view-exchange meeting Wednesday emphasised the proper implementation of the amended labour law-2013 with a view to ensuring the compliance with the issues that the global community had been focusing on the matter.
They also felt the need for significant, visible changes in the area of compliance to restore the generalised system of preferences (GSP) facility in the USA and for continuation of it in the European Union (EU) markets.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) jointly organised the meet titled ‘Exchange of Views on Compliance Issues of RMG Sector in Bangladesh’ held in the city.
Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar, Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed, Netherlands Ambassador to Bangladesh Gerben de Jong, Deputy Chief, Political and Economic Section of the US Embassy Tobais Glucksman, BGMEA president Md Atiqul Islam and its office bearers, and BKMEA vice president Md Hatem, among others, were present there.
Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar in his speech called on the garment owners to fully implement the labour law that had incorporated many safety-related provisions including simplification of process for forming trade unions, forming participatory committees through election, welfare boards and funds for export-oriented sectors, security and safety measures for workers to ensure compliance at the garment factories.
“My earnest request to the owners is to implement the amended labour law as buyers, brands and other global entities are closely watching you, and you need to implement all these,” he added.
* Investors oppose trade unionism in EPZs:
Labour law changes to trigger strikes, lockouts, they fear
Investors fear that certain provisions of the country’s labour law, if applied, may trigger strikes and lockouts in export processing zones (EPZs).
“We are of the view that it is not feasible to allow strikes and lockouts within the EPZs,” chairman of the Bangladesh EPZ Investors’ Association (BEPZIA) Kihak Sung said in a recent letter to the Prime Minister’s Office.
He said labour rules and regulations are critical to decision making by a foreign firm to invest in the EPZs in Bangladesh.
“The existing regulatory regime with respect to labour has been receiving positive response from investors in the EPZs. To make major changes in these rules without consultations may lead to a significant negative reaction to investment in EPZs,” Mr Sung said.
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* Trade leaders urge govt to formulate business friendly labour rules:
Business leaders urged the government Tuesday to formulate business friendly labour rules in consultation with all the stakeholders mainly to pave the way for employment generation.
They also suggested not to concentrate only on one sector or specific issues rather consider the whole socio-economic scenario of the country in this regard.
Leaders of BEF, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) made the appeal during a meeting with the State Minister for Labour Mujibul Haque at his secretariat office in the city.
“There are many concerns of different sectors which the government should take into consideration before formulating rules in respect of labour law,” Kamran T Rahman, former president of Bangladesh Employers’ Federation (BEF) said.
The rules should be business friendly to create employment, he added.
BTMA President Jahangir Alamin said the socio-economic condition also needs to be taken into consideration in this regard so that all the sectors have the opportunity to express their views.
* Businesses want rules, regulations backing sector-wise entrepreneurs:
Business leaders on Tuesday demanded that the government consider the requirements of sector-wise entrepreneurs while formulating rules and regulations under the newly passed Bangladesh Labour Act-2013.
In a meeting with state minister for labour and employment Mujibul Haque at the secretariat in the capital, the business leaders said that the export-oriented sectors, specially apparel sector, were facing huge challenges and so the government should consider the concerns of the sector players.
They also demanded that the government ensure business-friendly environment as well as uninterrupted supply chain across the country for sustainable economic growth.
‘We have a good number of suggestions over formulating the rules under the labour act and the government should consider the sector-wise requirements,’ former president of the Bangladesh Employers Federation Kamran T Rahman said in the meeting.
The business-friendly environment and law are needed to generate employment as some 20 lakh labour forces enter in the labour market every year, he said.
Jahangir Alamin, president of the Bangladesh Textile mills Association, demanded that the government formulate the rules and regulations of labour act considering the prevailing social and economic situation in Bangladesh.
He urged the government not to concentrate on any particular issue regarding formulation of rules.
* Govt prepares draft of rules to implement labour law:
The government has prepared the draft of rules to implement labour laws and has given one month’s time to the stakeholders including owners and workers for their opinions, sources said.
The first meeting of the committee headed by Labour Secretary with representatives from the government, employers’ federation, apparel apex bodies-BGMEA and BKMEA-and labour organisations was held on January 23 when the draft was shared with them, they added.
Formulation of the necessary rules came aiming to implement the country’s labour laws, they said adding there is also international pressure to amend the laws and properly put them into practice to improve and ensure workplace safety and labour standards, especially in the garment sector following the deadly Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza building collapse.
The Bangladesh Labour Act of 2006 still lacks the required rules even though the Act was passed a couple of years back, they said adding the labour laws were amended on three occasions with the latest change taking place in 2013.
* Regulations under amended labour law by March: official:
The government will finalise the regulations by March, which were required to apply the amended labour law in factories, Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar said yesterday.
The government amended the labour law of 2006 on July 15 last year to allow full freedom of association and trade union in factories after the twin industrial disasters: Tazreen Fashions’ fire and Rana Plaza building collapse.
But the law could not be applied due to the absence of regulations.
“The regulations were supposed to be made by December, but it was not possible due to political unrest,” Shipar told The Daily Star.
“I hope the sub-committee which has been assigned to finalise the regulations in consultations with the stakeholders will be able to complete the job by March.”
* Taking free legal aid services to workers’ doorsteps stressed:
Speakers at a meeting Wednesday strongly emphasised on taking free legal aid services to the doorsteps of country’s workers, especially in the readymade garment (RMG) sector.
They also suggested creation of awareness among the workers and the mid-level employees on a large scale about workers’ rights, facilitating them to work together to take the industry forward.
Labour Legal Aid Cell (LLAC), a recently-formed agency under the National Legal Aid Services Organisation (NLASO) of the Law Ministry, arranged the views exchange meeting at the Shrama Bhaban in the city to find what steps should be taken to make the cell more effective and worker-friendly.
NLASO director Syed Aminul Islam, was the chief guest at the meeting, which was attended, among others, by First Labour Court in Dhaka chairman Miah Md Sharif Hossain, Labour Court Bar Association (LCBA) president Advocate Chowdhury Sarowar Ali, LCBA general secretary Advocate Belayet Hossain, LLAC Law Officer Moshiur Rahman Chowdhury, leaders of different worker associations, factory inspectors and other lawyers of the labour courts.
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* Bangladesh to showcase progress in labour standards on Feb 13:
The first meeting of three secretaries and five diplomats’ committee will be held in Dhaka on February 13 to highlight the progress made in different areas including factory and safety standards under the Sustainability Compact.
Progress under the deal may help Bangladesh regain trade privileges from the United States that suspended the generalised system of preferences status on June 27 last year.
The EU signed the Sustainability Compact involving International Labour Organisation in Geneva on July 8 to improve safety standards in the factories.
“We will mainly discuss the progresses made under the agreement,” said Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar by phone yesterday.
The compact is a roadmap that ties the government to three specific action plans: labour rights; structural integrity of buildings and occupational safety and health, and responsible business conduct with stakeholders. But it is not a legally binding agreement.
The EU and Bangladesh resolved to work together on improving labour rights, addressing safety concern, uplifting factory building conditions and ensuring responsible businesses in the country’s garment sector.
Bangladesh is also committed to improving 16 conditions that were given to the government by the US after suspension of the trade preference on June 27 last year.
Of the 16 conditions, Bangladesh has made good progresses in some areas, he added.
Bangladesh amended the labour law on July 15 last year to allow full freedom of association by the workers.
* USTR review on GSP for Bangladesh negative:
A US review of Bangladesh’s meeting an action plan for the reinstatement of GSP facilities projected a negative outcome as the plan was not fully implemented.
Bangladesh has now been given till April 15 to comply the plan as the US Trade Representative will review the compliance next in May, a senior foreign ministry official said.
Bangladesh lost GSP facilities on the US market in June 2013.
Foreign and commerce ministries of Bangladesh received the review report in the past week, officials said. USTR officials handed over the report to the Bangladesh mission in Washington on February 5.
The report urged the government to implement the action plan, suggesting further amendment to the labour law so that workers in EPZ factories could have the right to association and collective bargaining as workers outside export processing zones.
* IndustriALL urges govt to make labour law compliant with ILO standards:
The IndustriALL Global Union called upon the government Saturday for continuation of its reforms in the Bangladesh Labour Act to make the law fully compliant with the standards of International Labour Organisation (ILO).
IndustriALL, a global trade union federation, also sought commitment from the brands that sourced from the garment factories at collapsed Rana Plaza for urgent payment to an agreed trust fund for compensating victims and their families.
The visiting general secretary of the IndustriALL Jyrki Raina made the call at a press conference at a city hotel.
The press conference was also attended, among others, by Sudhershan Rao Sarde, South Asia regional secretary of the IndustriALL, Nazrul Islam Khan, chairman of its Bangladesh Chapter and Roy Ramesh Chandra, the chapter’s general secretary.
“We ask the Bangladesh government to continue with the labour law reform to make it fully compliant with the ILO standards,” Mr Raina said.
He, however, underscored the need for continuation of annual revisions of the minimum wage for RMG workers in order to reach a reasonable standard of wage in the country.
* Fresh law empowering EPZ authorities drafted:
The government has drafted a fresh law for the country’s export processing zones (EPZs) in accordance with the US Action Plan, delegating some power to the authorities of the special industrial zones, officials close to the process say.
The proposed law titled ‘Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act 2014′ is to replace the existing law – EPZ Workers’ Welfare Association (WWA) and Industrial Relation Act 2010 in conformity with Bangladesh Labour Act.
Following the US Action Plan, a committee headed by a Senior Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office was formed in September 2013 to draft a new time-befitting law for the EPZs.
“The draft on the proposed law has already been prepared and sent to the Prime Minister’s Office for next course of action,” General Manager (Public Relations) of Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) Nazma Binte Alamgir told the FE Friday.
The draft law has been finalised after consultation with major stakeholders including EPZ investors and leaders of WWAs, ministries and agencies concerned, she mentioned.
“Among other things, the draft law has incorporated a provision for delegating some of the responsibilities to the head of each EPZ to reduce the authority of the BEPZA Executive Chairman,” said an official.
* Workers demand democratic labour law:
Leaders of garment workers here on Sunday demanded that a democratic labour law be enacted ensuring their rights as the latest amendment to the existing law has failed to ensure that.
They came up with the demand at a views-exchanged meeting in the city on the poor lifestyle of garment workers and the role of trade unions.
Bangladesh Sangjukta Garments Sramik Federation organised the meeting.
Federation general secretary Moinuddin Mondal said the government has amended the labour law 2006 in 2013 as it had some “controversial provisions”.
“Though we had put forward a number of recommendations seeking the removal of undemocratic provisions from the labour law, no recommendation was accommodated in the amended law. Instead, labour rights have been curbed with the amendment,“ he alleged.
About the security of garment factories, Moinuddin said the government has failed to ensure safety in garment factories despite the recurrence of many disasters due to the weakness in the administration and the negligence of factory owners.
* Arbitration a must before going to labour court:
Draft law on ADR ‘in a month’
The government is going to make it mandatory for both employees and employers to try to settle their individual-level disputes through arbitration before going to court.
The move is meant for quick resolution of disputes outside the legal system under the auspices of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) bodies in the country’s industrial units to avoid the logjam of cases.
A draft law on the proposed ADR body has been prepared by Syed Sultan Ahmed, assistant executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), in consultation with labour-law experts and labour leaders. The draft on the ADR would be finalised in a month, Mr Ahmed said.
According to the draft, only individual-level disputes like those on wages, payment for working overtime, compensation and other payment-related disagreements will be resolved through the ADR bodies. No industrial disputes will be entertained by the same.
The Bangladesh Labour Law has to be amended to incorporate the ADR system. Once it is done, the government will form an adequate number of districtwise or areawise ADR committees to resolve the disputes.
* EU for implementing RMG labour reforms:
Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade, has stressed the need for implementing regulation on labour reforms in the garments sector of Bangladesh.
At an informal OECD Ministerial Meeting on Rana Plaza Aftermath in Paris, he also said Bangladesh’s labour law still needs to address restrictions on trade union formation and membership, no later than in the next iteration of the labour law reform.
The speech was available on the website of European Commission.
Gucht said improvements in labour rights must be extended to the Export Processing Zones while the recruitment of labour inspectors needs to be accelerated, inspections need to proceed and their results published.
“All the enabling conditions must be in place, not only in law but in practice, for workers to organise into trade unions and make their voice heard at the factory level,” he said, adding, “Inspections must be followed by structural improvements to improve safety. Bangladeshi industry has a key role to play here.”
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* Rana Plaza Aftermath:
Informal OECD Ministerial meeting
Paris, 26 June 2014
Ladies and gentlemen,
On the eighth of July last year, the Government of Bangladesh, the European Union, and the International Labour Organisation made an agreement. The United States joined us later.
We agreed to do our part to improve labour rights and factory conditions in the garment industry in Bangladesh.
The European Union had an obligation to act because it grants duty-free and quota-free tariff preferences to Bangladesh which have been a boon to the country’s export performance. The European Union was – and still is – the largest client of Bangladesh’s garment business. We imported over 9 billion euros worth in 2013.
I therefore am proud of the fact that after some very hard work with the Government of Bangladesh, the ILO and the US, we launched the Sustainability Compact for Bangladesh.
And I am also proud to report that much of that programme has been put into practice.
Let me give you some examples:
Bangladesh has amended its labour law improving labour rights. It has also upgraded its system for inspecting factory safety and begun the recruitment process of hundreds of new inspectors. Inspections have started and their results are being made public. Many new unions have registered and workers are starting to organise.
Labour law in slow lane:
Govt misses deadline to finalise regulations
Factory owners are slow to implement the labour law amended a year ago, as the government is yet to put in place a set of regulations for enforcement.
In July 15 last year, the government amended the labour law of 2006 allowing workers full freedom of association. Some factories and trade unions then started applying the amended law without the regulations.
The new labour law and its enforcement through regulations were two major conditions for regaining trade benefits from the United States.
A sustainability compact signed with the European Union on July 8 last year also made it mandatory for Bangladesh to improve workplace safety standards and labour rights.
The EU will observe progress in safety efforts for one year before taking any trade measure against Bangladesh.
But the labour and employment ministry missed the March deadline to finalise the regulations.
“We could not finalise the regulations in time as we have to consult with many stakeholders and particularly with the leaders of the garment sector,” said Mikail Shipar, labour secretary.
* EPZ Labour Act 2014 draft approved:
Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan informed the reporters about the approval after the meeting at the secretariat
The cabinet has approved in principal the draft of Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act 2014 keeping provision of the right to form trade union.
The act got cabinet nod in the regular meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday.
Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan informed the reporters about the approval after the meeting at the secretariat.
The Export Promotion Bureau Act 2014 and Nuclear Energy Control Act (amendment) 2014 also got final approval in the cabinet meeting.
to read. & read more. & to read.& read more. & read more. & read more. & to read.
* Bangladesh allows welfare unions in special economic zones after factory building collapse:
The Bangladeshi government has approved in principle the draft of a law for economic zones that includes the provision to allow workers to form welfare unions to bargain for their rights.
The approval for “Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act-2014” draft came at the regular cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair on Monday.
Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters that the draft has been made after consultation with all stakeholders in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) which accommodate 431 industrial units under operation while 134 are under implementation.
Investors from over 40 countries including Bangladesh, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, and the United States have invested in the eight EPZs, enjoying a large number of fiscal and non-fiscal privileges.
Since its inception, the EPZs has bagged investment worth over 3 billion U.S.dollars while the number of employment at the EPZs totaled 384,644, according to the BEPZA (Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority),which has been placed directly under the country’s Prime Minister’s Office and was set up by an act of parliament in 1980 to woo particularly foreign capital and technical know-how and thereby boost exports through the establishment of export- oriented industries in special zones with special facilities.
The approval to the draft law came about a year after the government decided to allow garment workers in factories outside EPZs to form trade unions without prior permission from their factory owners.
Bhuiyan said all workers in factories in EPZs will elect leaders of the welfare unions every year.
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* Cabinet approves draft EPZ Labour Act:
Provision allows TU right
The cabinet approved Monday in principle the draft ‘Bangladesh Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Labour Act, 2014’ aiming to ensure welfare of the workers by allowing them to form trade unions (TUs).
“The proposed law was drafted keeping consistency with the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2013 along with maintaining all the existing extra facilities of the workers employed in the EPZs,” cabinet secretary Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told the media after the cabinet meeting at the conference room of the cabinet division on the day.
The right to formation of trade union has been incorporated in the draft in line with one of the conditions set by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for restoring the preferential trade benefit for Bangladeshi products in the US market.
He said the name of the workers’ organisation in the EPZs would be ‘The Workers’ Welfare Association’ that would allow the workers in EPZs the right to collective bargaining.
*EPZ workers get rights to union:
Cabinet okays draft law
After an unpleasant outcome of last week’s US review on GSP, the cabinet yesterday approved the draft EPZ law protecting workers’ right to freedom of association.
As per the proposed Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act 2014, at least 30 percent workers of a factory within an export processing zone will have to apply for registration to form an association.
After the registration with the Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (Bepza), there will have an election to the association’s executive committee of one-year tenure.
One candidate or a panel will need at least 50 percent votes to be winner and there will be a fresh election in case of fewer votes.
Right now, the EPZ Workers’ Association and Industrial Relations Act 2009 do not allow trade union, a term also not mentioned in the draft okayed by the cabinet.
However, existing workers’ welfare associations in the export processing zones will act like trade unions under the new law, cabinet sources said.
Reforming the rules related to the EPZ was one of the major conditions in the US action plan for Bangladesh to regain the GSP status to the US market.
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) suspended the trade benefit in June last year citing serious shortcomings in workplace safety and labour rights.
* EPZ workers allowed to bargain:
Cabinet okays draft EPZ labour law
The cabinet on Monday approved in principle the draft ‘Bangladesh EPZ Labour Bill – 2014’, allowing workers in the export processing zones to form welfare associations with the capacity to bargain for rights.
‘The EPZ workers will now have the right to form workers’ welfare associations that will have the bargaining capacity to protect their rights,’ cabinet secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told a press briefing after the cabinet meeting.
He said the draft of EPZ labour law had been prepared in line with the labour law and the EPZ workers’ welfare association and industrial relations law.
Musharraf said the workers in the EPZ remained outside the jurisdiction of the Labour Act of 2006, which was amended in 2013, as they got higher pays in dollars and other facilities.
‘This law will help protect the rights of workers in the export processing zones, which play an important role raising the foreign investment in Bangladesh,’ he added.
He said the new law having 16 sections and 204 articles would regulate workers’ appointments, safety, wages and working hours, among others.
There will be an EPZ Appellate Tribunal to deal with offences under the law, according to the draft.
The Prime Minister’s Office placed the draft at the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by the prime minister Sheikh Hasina at the secretariat.
Asked about possible reactions of the investors who set up factories in the EPZs on the condition that the workers’ right to trade unionism would not be entertained in the exclusive areas, the cabinet secretary said the draft was prepared in consultation with all stakeholders to ensure rights of the workers.
He said 30% workers of a factory will have to apply for constituting a workers’ association, which will be registered with the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority.
Each factory will have one association, which will have an executive committee elected by workers.
‘The association will function as a bargaining agent to be registered with BEPZA… But a trade union is registered with the department of labour,’ state minister for labour Mujibul Haque told New Age.
He said family of an EPZ worker would get two lakh if s/he dies as a worker while the amount was Tk one lakh for a worker outside the EPZ.
The primary objective of an EPZ is to provide special areas where potential investors would find a congenial investment climate, free from cumbersome procedures, according to officials.
* Cabinet approves EPZ Labour Act:
The act was prepared following the existing labour act after consulting with the investors, owners and stakeholders of the industries established in the EPZ areas
The cabinet yesterday approved in principle the draft of Bangladesh Export Processing Zones (EPZ) Labour Act, keeping the provision of forming ‘EPZ Workers’ Welfare Association’ and protection of “EPZ Labour Court” for violation of the law.
After the cabinet meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told media that new draft of the act was prepared following the existing labour act after consulting with the investors, owners and stakeholders of the industries established in the EPZ areas.
“The terms and conditions of appointing workers, system of appointment, working environment, working hours, leaves, compensations for accidents, independence of forming organisations, joint business, provision of forming EPZ labour court and EPZ labour appeal court have also been included in the draft,” he said.
The state minister told the Dhaka Tribune that the government had prepared the draft of the new act due to the pressure from the International Labour Organisation and the US government. Bangladesh had already agreed to implement all the conditions of labour rights. The initiative is one of the conditions.
According to the draft act, the EPZ workers will have the right to forming workers’ welfare association with the written consent of 30% workers of an industry. They will apply to the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority for registration. The authority will give them permission for organisation and registration.
At the same time, the BEPZA general manager will have the power to take steps against any worker or workers welfare association for violation of the law.
Now there are about 12 export processing zones in the country including seven public EPZs. Around 300,000 workers are working in those EPZs.
* Export Processing Zones (EPZ) to have “Freedom of Association” – First step towards a milestone:
After a week since the negative US review came over the GSP issue in Bangladesh, the cabinet yesterday approved a draft law which would pave the way for Bangladesh Export Processing Zone workers to unionize.
The demand for freedom of association have been a burning issue for labor rights groups and sympathizers, and played a major role in the GSP (General system of preference) denied to Bangladesh from the United States.
On June 27, 2013, the United States suspend Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), citing serious shortcomings in workplace safety and labor rights.
The US presented 16 conditions for reform in the garment sector, which unless met would prevent Bangladesh from enjoying its GSP facility.
The Bangladeshi government has since then started reforming the garment sector based on those conditions (as well as pressure from European retailers and right groups).
The Current review said, in the words of United States Trade Representative Michael Froman: “We are seeing some improvements that move us closer to our shared goal of protecting workers from another workplace tragedy such as the April 2013, “However, we remain concerned about the large number of factories that have yet to be inspected, the lack of progress on needed labor law reforms, and continuing reports of harassment of and violence against labor activists who are attempting to exercise their rights.”
Bangladesh has significantly improved the workplace safety standards and labour rights in the last one year, but still a lot to do, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said.
The comment came at a time when the Sustainability Compact, which Bangladesh signed with the European Union involving the International Labour Organisation (ILO), completed its first anniversary yesterday.
Under the agreement, Bang-ladesh is committed to improve safety standards and labour rights, and the EU will observe the progress of the commitments for one year before taking any trade action against Bangladesh.
The US also joined the Sustainability Compact later.
Bangladesh should enact the regulations on labour reforms and take steps to extend the improved labour rights to the export processing zones, De Gucht said in Paris on June 26.
“Bangladesh’s labour law still needs to address restrictions on trade union formation and membership, no later than in the next iteration of the labour law reform,” De Gucht said.
* EPZ labour bill stops short of allowing TU rights:
Labour leaders say
Labour rights groups have termed ‘disappointing’ the draft Bangladesh EPZ Labour Bill-2014 as it stopped short of allowing workers’ trade union rights.
Different labour rights groups on Tuesday alleged that the government did not bring any fundamental changes to the law as the provisions of ‘Export Processing Zones Workers Association and Industrial Relations Act, 2004’ almost remained in the newly approved bill.
Labour leaders said that the government move to introduce workers’ welfare associations instead of trade union had frustrated them as it was done without consultation with the trade union leaders.
‘No fundamental change have been brought to the bill and it has not ensured freedom of association and the right to form trade union,’ Sultan Ahmed, assistant executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, told New Age.
According to the bill, workers willing to form an association with the capacity to bargain for rights would have to apply to the chairman of Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority but BEPZA could not be the authority for giving registration to any trade union, he pointed out.
Labour directorate was the only authority to give registration to trade union, he said.
Chowdhury Ashiqul Alam, general secretary of Bangladesh Trade Union Sangha, said it was ‘sheer hypocrisy’ in the name of allowing trade union rights. ‘A welfare association cannot be a trade union and such kind of association can never protect the rights of workers,’ he said.
Amirul Haque Amin, president of National Garment Workers Federation, said that the new EPZ Labour Bill just recognised welfare association, not trade union.
Garment Workers Trade Union Centre president Montu Ghosh said that the government had approved the EPZ Labour Bill without talking to labour leaders and the new law could not ensure trade union rights of workers.
The government allowed workers to form welfare association but we want full implementation of trade union rights in the EPZ,’ Garment Workers Unity Forum president Mushrefa Mishu said.
* Amend labour law as per ILO rules, says EU:
Easing TU formation and strike preconditions pleaded
The European Union has renewed its call for further amendment to Bangladesh’s labour law, especially in the provision regarding requirement of minimum 30% workers’ representation for forming union, to make it fully compliant with core labour standards.
The EU made the call in a progress report posted Tuesday on its official website on the first anniversary of Sustainability Compact — a comprehensive accord meant for upgrading Bangladesh’s export-oriented garment industry in which they are a major stakeholder as consumer of the apparels.
In the report, the European Union, however, reaffirmed the commitments laid down in the Compact.
In doing so, the EU stressed swift adoption of rules and regulations to implement the labour law, bringing changes to existing industrial relations regulations that allow employers to conduct elections for Worker Participation Committees, advance recruitment of inspectors and their training, and application of the labour law to the EPZs (export-processing zones).
“Major areas that remain to be addressed include the reduction of the 30 minimum membership requirement to form a union and restrictions on the right to strike,” the report says.
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* EU concerned over refusal to register TUs:
The European Union has expressed concern over the recent refusals to register trade unions, attempts to limit their freedom of expression and the lack of measures to address intimidation and violence against workers in Bangladesh.
The EU said that the Bangladesh has made much progress since signing the Sustainability Compact a year ago, but further work is urgently required to ensure safety and health at place of work as well as freedom of association in line with commitments.
EU on Wednesday unveiled the progress report titled ‘Staying Engaged: Bangladesh Sustainability Compact—One Year On’ reviewing progress by this time and urged the government for completing other commitments.
‘We urge the government to complete the labour law reforms, training and recruitment of inspectors and to create the conditions for meaningful freedom of association,’ European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht and Commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion Laszlo Andor said in a joint statement.
They said that Better labour conditions would support sustainable trade links with
many markets, especially the European Union. EU, together with the authorities of Bangladesh, the United States and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) launched the Sustainability Compact one year ago just after the Rana Plaza disaster in which more than 1,100 readymade garment workers killed, most of them women.