• Thursday, Feb 20, 2020
  • Last Update : 12:44 am

Formal recognition of the transport sector key to ensuring road safety

  • Published at 01:27 am April 28th, 2019
transport sector
Formalization of the transport sector is needed because trade unions have failed to ensure the job security and rights of transport workers, industry insiders say Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

“The more the sense of job security and workplace safety, the safer the roads would be.”

Recognizing the transport sector as a formal sector could play a major role in improving workplace environment that would lead to ensuring road safety to a great extent. 

Although all concerned agreed this would help improve the situation, unfortunately the process has been delayed for too long.

Abul Bashar, secretary general of Bangladesh inter-district truck drivers union said: “To ensure the safety and rights of transport workers, the sector needs to be recognized formally so there can be a mechanism to ensure medical treatment for the injured, and compensation for killed helpers, workers, and drivers. 

“The more the sense of job security and workplace safety, the safer the roads would be.”

“There are several trade unions to safeguard the rights issues of transport workers. But preserving their rights through labour rights organizations is not possible at all,” said executive committee members of the truck driver union.

“Each member of the truck driver union is expected to pay Tk20 every month. There are almost 70,000 members throughout the country. But not even 1% of them paid the money, nor did the leaders compel them to do so, as they consider them a vote bank for them (leaders).

“Earlier, the family of a dead driver would get Tk10,000. Instead of increasing over time, it reduced to only Tk7,500. And that too is mostly managed by local branch leaders and members,” they added.

Due to the lack of a formal procedure, drivers can be hired or fired at any time, the members added. 

Mohammad Babu Mia, pick-up van driver in Lalkuthi of Mirpur said: “If things like getting a driving license were easier and more transparent, or roads were well maintained, we would save time, and make a secure, living wage. We would not be so desperate to earn more money at the cost of security.”

Blame game continues

According to labour leaders and transport owners’ associations and concerned government officials, the major problem is to reach a consensus. Each party keeps blaming the other for not providing an appointment letter. 

However, Faruk Talukder Sohel, chairman of Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners' Association and the managing director of Sohag Paribahan Ltd, said the workers do not want appointment letters.

“They would rather bargain with owners for their wages,” said Sohel.

However, he couldn’t be reached over the phone on Tuesday for further comment or clarification.

Osman Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation said: “Transport workers' wages have been fixed by Bangladesh Labour Law. But due to negligence on the part of transport owners and a lack of monitoring by the authorities concerned, it was not followed.

“Vehicle owners do not even issue any appointment letters to workers,” he added. 

According to labour union leaders, the number of workers directly or indirectly working in the sector at present, is around four million. 

“In 2005 the government fixed the minimum wage for drivers at Tk12,000, for contractors Tk8,000, and for helpers, Tk6,000. But they don’t follow this,” added Osman Ali.

What experts say

According to experts, if the transport sector is recognized as a formal one, owners would be compelled to provide appointment letters and transport workers would have to work under a proper agreement. This would give a sense of security to workers, and owners would have to comply with labour law.

Kazi Saifun Newaz, assistant professor at the Accident Research Institute of BUET, said: “The transport sector in the country has grown without any formal management or structure.

“Formalization of the sector could benefit everyone including workers, owners, and passengers. It would ensure a permanent wage and proper compensation for workers, helpers, and drivers. Monitoring everyone is not possible for the government. A franchisee based system would have made it easier to monitor compared to the existing multi-owner system,” he added, commenting that the government needs to ensure standard bus route franchises.

Director General of Department of Labour AKM Mizanur Rahman, also Additional Secretary of the ministry, told the Dhaka tribune: “The department has long been asked to make a formal recognition of the sector.” 

Dr Rezaul Haque, Additional Secretary of Ministry of Labour and Employment, said: “After observing international May Day, a strong start of the process of formalization is expected.”

However, none of the officials could say how much it would cost to formalize the sector.