Readymade garment labour leaders sought interference of America in meeting their demands for labour rights, formation of trade unions and implementation of labour laws to ensure safe and sound workplaces.
They made the call at a meeting with United States Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal at the US Embassy in Dhaka yesterday. Biswal arrived in Dhaka on Thursday on a three-day official visit.
Several RMG trade union leaders including Kalpana Akter, a leader of the Bangladesh Centre for Workers’ Solidarity, Najma Akter, president of Garment-Worker Federation, Amirul Haque Amin, president of National Garment Workers Federation, Babul Akhter, president of Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Director Srinivas B Reddy and a representative from Accord and Alliance attended the meeting.
Labour leaders especially talked on the challenges of forming trade unions and difficulties in the implementation of amended Labour Act 2013 and enactment of rules, meeting sources told the Dhaka Tribune. RMG trade union leaders also urged the meeting to ease the process of forming trade unions as, they said, it is very tough for any organisation to garner support from 30% workers needed to form a trade union.
We informed Biswal the challenges the labour organisations in Bangladesh are facing so that she can raise the issue during her meeting with the government officials, said a leader.
“We have presented the progress of the country’s apparel industry in the last one year,” said M Rabin, managing director of the Alliance. “She wanted to know the progress and to keep abreast of the present situation of the industry.”
Amirul Haque Amin, president of National Garment Workers Federation, at the meeting raised the issue of allowing a trade union at the Export Processing Zones arguing that there could not be dual rule in a country. Responding to the question, Biswal said the issue is in progress and the policy is being drafted, the source said.
When contacted over phone, Amirul reacted angrily and asked the correspondent how he was informed about his participation in the meeting. He refused to comment on the meeting and hung up.
Meanwhile, ILO Country Director Srinivas B Reddy also asked the Dhaka Tribune to contact American Embassy for details about the meeting denying making comment on the issue.
The labour leaders told Biswal that the government was not playing a neutral role. They also said the workers did not get termination benefits and are being sacked on allegation of trade union formation in the factory.
Earlier, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed alleged that a vested quarter is engaged in a negative campaign against the Bangladesh apparel industry and is secretly providing information to the US, which was not true. The issue of workers’ safety came under the spotlight last year following the collapse of Rana Plaza that killed over 1,135 workers and the Tazreen Fashions fire.
Since the catastrophes, Accord and Alliance was committed to improving safety standards, including fire, electrical and structural safety, in the apparel sector.
It has completed inspection of factories and found less than 2% of them risky.