Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on Tuesday said the government will adjust Workers Welfare Association (WWA) with the ILO convention to ensure equal rights for workers employed in the country’s Export Processing Zones and beyond.
The minister came up with the comment while addressing journalists after a meeting with the European Union (EU) parliamentary delegation lead by Arne Lietz, a member of the European Parliament at his office on Tuesday.
“There is a question about trade union at EPZ, but Bangladesh has WWA, which is almost similar to trade unions in terms of enjoying workers rights,” the minister said.
“But we must adjust with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) rules. It has been discussed with the delegation.”
The delegation will meet the Ministry of Labour and Employment and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to discuss the issue.
Bangladesh will give importance to the issues, which the EU is concerned with, since benefits come from them, said Tofail.
There will not be any problem between EU and Bangladesh, and if any, they would be resolved through discussion, the minister said, adding that all issues would be discussed in the meeting on Sustainability Compact to be held in May.
Talking on the EPZ workers rights issues, Arne Lietz, a member of the European Parliament said EPZ Law needs to be rethought. He urged the authorities concerned to come up with the standard of UN convention and ILO standard in terms of workers rights inside and outside EPZs.
Replying to a question on Ashulia labour unrest that took place in December last year, Arne said it has been discussed with the international partners like H&M, C&A and others working here.
The workers are fighting for better wages system and it is very logical.
“We are experiencing such demonstration everywhere in our countries and sometimes we see street blockade. It is a part of trade union to fight for the right,” according to the head of delegation.
He hopes that a strong result might come from tripartite agreement and it is a good start to develop new rules and pathways to deal with the issues.
The EU delegates also talked on the amendment to Labour Act to address the issue relating to freedom of association and collective bargain, to introduce same standards and equal labour rights in and outside EPZs factories and simplify the trade union registration process.
“We feel there is a need for amendment to some provisions of Labour Act and we will sit with the national tripartite consultation committee on the amendment,” said Mujibul Haque, state minister for labour.