DHAKA, 12 February 2012 (ACTRAV INFO) - An ILO delegation led by the Director of the Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV), Mr. Dan Cunniah, met with two Ministers in Bangladesh during a Mission in the country from 12 to 14 February 2012..At a meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, HE Mr Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, the Director of ACTRAV expressed his appreciation for the positive role played by the Minister recently in convening the meeting of the Tripartite Consultative Council (TCC) to revise the Bangladesh Labour Act (BLA). Mr Cunniah reiterated the need to ensure that the changes in legislation should bring the Labour Act into conformity with ILO core Conventions, especially Co 87 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and Co 98 concerning Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining. The Director of ACTRAV highlighted the need for a conducive environment for trade unionism in Bangladesh and outlined the necessary steps that have to be made to remove the barriers and obstacles for unions’ registration: for instance the 30 per cent signed-up membership requirement for the union to be registered, and the submission to employers of the names of union officers and members – for verification purposes. Dan Cunniah emphasized that these changes are needed, and are important prerequisites for the consideration of the implementation of the Better Work project in Bangladesh. In response, the Minister made an assurance that the Government had considered the proposals and recommendations submitted by the trade unions. As agreed at the TCC meeting, the Minister also expects the employers to submit their recommendations as the process will entail a submission to the Cabinet and Parliamentary Committees before a final draft is submitted to Parliament.
At a meeting with the State Minister of Labour H.E. Ms. Begum Monnujan Sufian, the members of the ILO Delegation emphasized the need for Bangladesh to ratify ILO Conventions, including C87 and C98. The Director of ACTRAV highlighted the need for reforms in the Bangladesh Labour Act (BLA) to ensure its conformity with ILO core Conventions, and the need to ensure proper and adequate implementation of the law, especially on labour inspection. Mr Cunniah assured the Minister that the ILO-ACTRAV stood ready to provide support to unions to assist in building the capacity of workers’ organizations that could help to create a congenial and conducive environment for better labour-employer relations. In her statement, HE.Ms Begum Monnujan Sufian assured the Mission that the government was serious in implementing the law. According to her, the concerns of workers belonging to the three pillars of the Bangladesh economy – migrant workers, the Ready Made Garment Industry (RMG) sector, and the informal economy – had been dealt with in the proposed labour law amendments. The Minister stressed that many negative perceptions about trade unions existed, especially among the new generation of entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, and this was one of the biggest challenges confronting unions.
Before leaving Dhaka, the ILO Delegation also met with representatives of trade unions, and employers in Bangladesh. The biggest challenge facing unions in Bangladesh is unions, particularly in the garment industry. The RMG is worth around US$18 billion employing some 3.5 million workers mostly young women (80%). Out of the 3.5 million workers in the RMG sector, there are only about 63,000 union members. These members belong to some 140 registered unions in the sector which boasts of covering some 5,000 factories. In reality, only some 30 of the unions can be considered active. There has been very few unions registered over the last four years.
For more information, contact:
Senior Specialist in Workers' Activities, ILO DWT for South Asia
Tel: +91.11.24602101, 102
Senior Specialist in Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV)
Desk Officer for Asia-Pacific
Tel :+41 22 799 6469
Email : raghwan[at]ilo[dot]org