The government is yet to make a decision about allowing trade unionism in the export processing zones (EPZs) after 2013, says Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar.
“EPZ is operating under an act which will be expired at the end of 2013, and after that, workers are likely to get more rights related to freedom of association,” the secretary said at a press briefing held in the foreign ministry yesterday.
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni called the press meet to apprise the journalists of recent diplomatic developments with regard to labour issues.
Bangladesh is currently under pressure from the European Union (EU) and the US to establish trade union rights inside the EPZs, in the same way they are to be established outside.
The labour secretary said two committees would be formed soon to formulate rules and regulations about the labour law amendment (2013).
“Before I came here [the press conference], I had a meeting with the director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). We are going to invite them (ILO) formally to help us formulate these rules and regulations,” he said.
The task to form the two committees will begin within a day or two, Shipar said.
There are a total of 74 amendments and out of that 20-25 are significant, he said, adding the ILO wants to “see implementation of the labour law amendments.”
About the Better Work Programme with ILO, he said “it would begin soon.”
“The ILO imposed some conditions and the government fulfilled them. The Better Work Programme will be implemented too,” he said.
Speaking about the recruitment of 200 inspectors by the end of 2013 as committed, the secretary said 60 of them could be recruited in the next three months.
“The government has taken steps to recruit 60 inspectors, and 23 inspectors will be appointed under a project. There are 30 vacant posts and these will be filled up. The PSC [Public Service Commission] has already appointed four inspectors while eight will get appointment soon,” the secretary said.
He hoped that 140 inspectors out of the 200 and an additional 800 inspectors would be appointed after the upgrading of the Inspection Department to a “directorate.”
“The department now has 314 posts, but once it is upgraded to directorate, it will have 2,200 posts. The proposal to upgrade the department lies with the public administration ministry now,” he added.
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, in response to a question, said the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement between Bangladesh and US would be signed “at a convenient time.”
About duty-free access of commodities to the European market, Dipu Moni said the EU assured Bangladesh of continuing GSP facilities subject to fulfilment of certain conditions to improve the labour situation.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht on July 8 made it clear that Bangladesh “cannot take zero-duty market access to the European market as granted” and termed the Rana Plaza tragedy “unacceptable.”
“Under the ‘Everything But Arms’ scheme, the EU may consider taking appropriate action should there be no or insufficient progress for Bangladeshi workers,” he said adding: “What happened in Bangladesh just over 2 months ago is simply unacceptable. It is our duty to change this situation and quickly.”