Union, government officials help develop union registration, anti-discrimination procedures with ILO support

Trade unions and officials of the Directorate of Labour in Bangladesh are working with ILO towards developing standard operating procedures relating to the registration of new unions and cases of anti-union discrimination.

In March 2015, the Directorate of Labour launched on-line systems with ILO support for the registration of trade unions and case management related to unfair labour practices. The online systems were developed to help provide more transparency and accountability to the trade union registration process as well to receive allegations of anti-union discrimination.

Two, two-day workshops held in Dhaka 22-23 and 25-26 August saw Directorate of Labour and union officials learn more about what constitutes anti-union discrimination and how to systematically address it. These skills will be put to use to help enhance the effectiveness of the online systems.

“For the Directorate of Labour our goal is to develop Standard Operating Procedures covering trade union registrations and to deal with cases of anti-union discrimination,” says ILO’s Ravi Samithadasa. “But to do so it needs to be clearly understood what constitutes discrimination under the law.”

“For two days, we went through an in depth analysis of what the law says on discrimination guided by experienced lawyers. Initially people said they knew about the issues and how to deal with them but after the sessions participants realized just how complex it can be. Importantly, we also looked at how courts have interpreted the law and precedents which have been set.”

During the training the Directorate of Labour officials also received training on how to input data and use the online system.

“The training helped give us insight into issues related to anti-union discrimination. We all know about it but are not fully aware of the difference between the dispute-related complaints and discrimination. Now this is clearer. I think this training should be held across the country for owners and workers too,” said Mr. S M Anamul Haque, Deputy Director (Administration), Directorate of Labour (DoL).

During a separate two-day session, trade union leaders and organizers from the National Coordination Committee for Workers Education (NCCWE) and IndustriAll Bangladesh Council (IBC) learned how to make an online application for a new union registration and how to appeal in the event of an application being rejected.

What exactly constitutes anti-union discrimination was also covered with the union participants, as Ravi explains. Amongst the participants was union organizer Rani Khan. “We know what the problems are. We need to find solutions and that is the hard thing. This is the first time that I have seen how the online registration system works. I also have a better understanding of labour law. It will help when workers come to ask me,” she said.

Further workshops will be held in coming months to further discuss the development of the standard operating procedures. It is hoped that these can be finalized by the end of the year.

ILO is supporting efforts in Bangladesh to adopt and enforce labour law and policies which are in compliance with international labour standards. Specific challenges faced by workers’ and employers’ organizations are being addressed by building local capacity in relation to freedom of association and collective bargaining. ILO’s work in this field is supported by the US Department of Labor as well as the governments of Norway and Denmark.