The government’s move to amend the Bangladesh Labour Law 2006 contradicts International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards, and is unlikely to bring any benefit to workers, legal experts and rights activists observed.
Addressing a roundtable discussion, they also demanded that the government immediately review the proposed amendments to the law and incorporate the provisions of the ILO conventions before placing it in parliament.
In his keynote presentation, WFTU (Bangladesh Committee) Convener Wazedul Islam Khan said although the provision for allowing workers to form trade unions was included in the proposed amendment, the requirement for the participation of at least 30% of the workers in the trade union makes it “virtually impossible” to implement it in larger factories.
“We propose that the provision of trade union be based on slabs – the 30% participation restriction can be maintained in factories with less than 5,000 workers. But for factories employing larger number of workers, the participation restriction should be reduced to 15%-20%,” he said.
The amendment must include a provision to allow the workers to elect at least 20% of union leaders from the labour movement veterans operating outside the factories, he added.
Wazedul also noted that despite repeated attempts at persuasion by the labour organisations, the government had not included any change in the provision on the compensation of deaths and injuries.
The compensation for deaths and injuries must be made equal to the loss of earning in a lifetime, he said.
More interestingly, he said, the amendment bill approved by the cabinet excluded house rent in the definition of wages.
He further said that representatives from workers’ organisations in a public hearing organised by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour Affairs raised concerns on various fronts, including those mentioned above, and proposed some specific recommendations – but those recommendations were presented in a “distorted form” by the labour minister.
Speaking on the occasion, Workers Party president Rashed Khan Menon, MP, said: “The law is expected to be passed in the upcoming session of parliament. It’s expected to be discussed on the 14th and the 15th (of July).”
“It appears that the government is amending the law under foreign pressure, not in the interest of the workers. To me, the law (proposed amendment) doesn’t reflect the interest of the workers,” he said.
Menon also noted that parliament is more “influenced” by the interest of the factory owners than that of the workers. “Most of the members in parliament are on the owners’ side,” he said.
Moderated by Jatiya Sramik Jote president Mesbah Uddin Ahmed, the roundtable discussion was also addressed by former Justice Syed Amirul Islam, Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust (BLAST) Executive Director Barrister Sarah Hossain and Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) Assistant Executive Director Sultan Uddin Ahmed.