Though Bangladesh has made progress in terms of labour rights and the formation of trade unions, it is still far from enough, said Michael Sommer, FES vice chairman and former president of the International Trade Union Confederation and German Confederation of Trade Unions, on Thursday.
Speaking at an inauguration press conference for the Academy of Work (AoW), a three month certified education programme for trade unionists to create future leaders, he said: “It is a good time for Bangladesh to modernise the existing labour laws to allow more trade unions and secure labour rights in different sectors.”
The AoW programme is a collaborative effort among the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and the Brac Institute of Governance and Development.
Sixteen Bangladeshi trade unionists from several sectors made up the first batch of the AoW, which began two weeks ago, even though the programme was inaugurated on Thursday.
One of the members of the first batch, Mohammad Yamin Mia, a production manager at a factory based in Pubail, said: “Under this programme, we are being taught English and about labour laws and how to collect information or conduct research when any kind of workers’ crisis occurs.”
During the programme, however, prominent local trade unionist, ZM Kamrul Anam, president of the Bangladesh Textile and Garment Worker League, went on stage and said: “All the trade unionists present at the programme should boycott the AoW project. No trade unionists or worker leader is present among those on the dais, yet they claim this programme is for us.”
In response, the chief guest, State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque, admitted the veracity of the claim and urged the organisers to take the matter into consideration.
He also suggested that along with trade unionists, root level workers who do not know anything about labour laws should also be educated in these issues, especially women workers.