European Union wants that a common standard be maintained to ensure equal rights for workers employed in the country’s Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and beyond.
Arne Lietz, a member of the European Parliament and head of visiting EU parliamentary delegation, came up with the call at a press conference after a meeting with the Bangladesh Garment Manufactures and Exporters (BGMEA) in the capital on Monday.
The delegation is on a fact-finding mission and it is a follow-up visit of the members that took place last year.
“There are different issues on the table that need to be aligned. We have to have same standard, said Arne Lietz.
It all about the citizen, the citizen should have same rights. They should have rights of union, rights to be educated and gender equality in all fields, said Lietz.
And therefore, the EPZs have to acknowledge that the framework is much bigger and important to translate the result into reality, said the delegation head.
In line with the EPZ Act, workers at EPZs factory practice labour rights issue under Workers Welfare Association (WWA).The workers rights groups and global buyers are also demanding direct trade union outside of EPZs.
It is very important that there should be right to form trade unions, hold collective bargaining and right to organise trade union, according to Lietz.
“So we are welcoming more workers to participate in union to stabilise themselves,” said the EU parliament member.
He also said: “Our business model in EU relies on strong labour unions.”
The EU Commission also called for an amendment to the 2013 Labour Act to address the issues relating to freedom of association and collective bargaining, investigating acts of anti-union discrimination and imposing fine or criminal sanctions.
The workers rights of trade union came under the spotlight following the labour unrest at Ashulia in Savar last December. The incident raised a question over workers rights as the owners fired workers following the incident.
“We have broadly and openly discussed labour rights issues especially in the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in the meeting,” said BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman.
“I hope we have been able to make them understand where the RMG sector was before the Rana Plaza incident and where it is now in terms of workers rights and safety.”
The delegation has expressed satisfaction over the progress, the BGMEA leader claimed.
“To protect the RMG industry, we will have to do something and I will not say that a lot of good works have already been done,” he said.
“The delegation also called for steps to make the trade union registration process easy, stop abuse of workers and amend Labour Act,” BGMEA vice-president Mahmud Hasan Khan Babu told the Dhaka Tribune.
In response to their call, BGMEA told the delegates that it wants to introduce sectoral trade union in RMG sector to ensure transparency.
The clothing manufacturers and exporters association also demanded an explanation of abuse as there is no harassment in the factory now.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Bangladesh’s export to EU countries stood at $18.68 billion in the last fiscal year, which is 54.57% of the total export of $34.24 billion.
Of the total amount, $17.15 billion came from the apparel products, which is about 62% of the total RMG export of $28 billion.