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Unions: Labour rights protection still weak

  • Published at 01:27 am November 24th, 2016
  • Last updated at 04:49 pm November 24th, 2016
Unions: Labour rights protection still weak
Workers’ rights came under scrutiny after the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 that left 1,237 dead and over 2,700 permanently disabled. As a result, a five-year long independent, legally binding agreement – The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (The Accord) and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety – was signed on May 15, 2013, between global brands and retailers and trade unions. “Workplace safety has improved in the last four years, but implementation of workers’ rights, especially in respect of their freedom of association, is far from the desired level,” Sirajul Islam Rony, president of Bangladesh Garment Workers Employees League said. He blamed existing laws that favour the owners and a “lack of implementation of Labour Law” for the situation. Nazma Akter, president of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, yesterday told the Dhaka Tribune: “Safety standards have improved; wages have been hiked; but not enough in comparison with our competitor countries. The number of trade unions has increased, but freedom of association is still under severe pressure.” BGMEA Vice President Mahmud Hasan Khan Babu disputed these claims: “It is not true. Factory owners are allowing trade unions. But it is unclear to me why trade unions are not getting registration.” Labour leaders demand ‘a standard compensation package’ for ‘workplace deaths’ in line with ILO conventions. Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, assistant executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), said: “The condition of workers rights’ implementation in the RMG sector is below the commitment made in The Accord. Compensation packages are yet to be fixed and recognised by the international community."