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Dhaka Tribune

ITUC survey: Bangladesh among top 10 worst countries for workers

Workers in Bangladesh cannot exercise their basic rights at work without fear of retaliation and brutal repression, the survey finds

Update : 18 Jun 2020, 03:58 PM

A new survey report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has mentioned Bangladesh among the world’s ten worst countries for workers in 2020.

“Workers in Bangladesh were exposed to mass dismissals, arrests, violence and state repression against peaceful protests. In the garment sector, strikes were often met with extreme brutality by police forces,” ITUC’s Global Rights Index 2020 said on Thursday.

It also said workers in Bangladesh could not exercise their basic rights at work without fear of retaliation and brutal repression, and face three major issues, including violence, mass dismissal and regressive laws in the country.  

Others on the list of ten worst countries for workers in 2020 include Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Turkey and Zimbabwe. 

The report mentioned that in Bangladesh’s garment sector, which represents an overwhelming share of the country’s export economy, over 500,000 workers employed in EPZs were not allowed to form or join unions, which left them without real power to bargain for better working conditions.

“This trend, by governments and employers, to restrict the rights of workers through limiting collective bargaining, disrupting the right to strike, and excluding workers from unions, has been made worse by a rise in the number of countries that impede the registration of unions,” ITUC observed in the report.

“These threats to workers, our economies and democracy were endemic in workplaces and countries before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted lives and livelihoods,” ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said in the report.

At the same time, the report also observed a new trend in 2020 that showed a number of scandals over government surveillance of trade union leaders in an attempt to instill fear and put pressure on independent unions and their members.

“In many countries, the existing repression of unions and the refusal of governments to respect rights and engage in social dialogue has exposed workers to illness and death and left countries unable to fight the pandemic effectively,” he added.

The Middle East and North Africa remain the worst region in the world for working people, for seven years running, due to the ongoing insecurity and conflict in Palestine, Syria, Yemen and Libya, coupled with the most regressive region for workers’ representation and union rights, the report said.

The seventh edition of the ITUC Global Rights Index ranks 144 countries on the degree of respect for workers’ rights.

 Key findings of the report also include:

•     85% of countries violated workers’ right to call a strike.

•     80% of countries violated the right to collectively bargain.

•     The number of countries that impeded the registration of unions has increased.

•     Three new countries entered the list of ten worst countries for workers (Egypt, Honduras, India)

•     The number of countries that denied or constrained freedom of speech increased from 54 in 2019 to 56 in 2020.

•     Workers were exposed to violence in 51 countries.

•     Workers had no or restricted access to justice in 72% of the countries.

•     Workers experienced arbitrary arrests and detention in 61 countries.

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