While the trainees hailed from Participation Committees of a number of factories, the instructors belonged to a group of Master Trainers who had been trained by the ILO’s Social Dialogue and Harmonious Industrial Relations (SDIR) project in Bangladesh.
Investing in industrial relationsSince its inception in 2015, the SDIR project in collaboration with the ITC-ILO, undertook a series of capacity building initiatives for Department of Labour officials, and workers’ and employers’ representatives. The aim was to develop them as Master Trainers who would in turn reach out to workers and employers to raise awareness on social dialogue at factory level.
The Master Trainers were equipped with knowledge and skills on various social dialogue mechanisms including as workplace cooperation, collective bargaining, grievance handling, supervisory skills, industrial relations, human resource management and trade union administration.
Working the middleIn August 2018, these Master Trainers started training PC members at enterprise level. By November 2018, 25 workshops were conducted in which more than 800 PC members from 105 factories attended.
“Our training is aimed at mid-level worker leaders and young officials from government and employer organisations, because they are in better position to inform and educate their management, workers and PC members in the factories about social dialogue”, said Jafar Iqbal, Programme Officer at ILO Bangladesh.
Tackling challenges at enterprise levelParticipation Committee (PC) is a legal requirement for establishments which employ fifty or more workers. The functions of the PC include promoting mutual trust and cooperation between workers and employers; ensuring application of labour laws and supporting workers’ education and welfare services which have a positive effect on productivity.
The Director General of Department of Labour, Shibnath Roy underlines the peace-making function of the PC. “Workers need representatives to communicate with their management. A PC can be that medium to improve social dialogue at the factory level.”
Worker representatives who attended the training said that they felt empowered by being part of a Participation Committee.
Rafiqul Islam Bablu, Quality in Charge at Impress Fashions Ltd. said, “I learned that in the decision-making process both workers and management must be in agreement. If management and workers cannot work together they won’t be able to bring out the best in each other.”
Employer representatives shared a similar view. “We have seen that there is an improvement in workplace relations in factories which have PCs,” said Enamul Haque Khan Babul, a Director of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Funded by Sweden and Denmark, the ILO’s SDIR project is working to build up social dialogue capacities at 500 targeted factories.
“When a large number of people are working together, it is normal for problems to arise. But there has to be a way to deal with those problems which can be done through the PC. Both the management and worker representatives in the PC can resolve the issues together. By tackling smaller problems, bigger problems can be avoided.”ILO Country Director in Bangladesh Tuomo Poutiainen
“By attending this training, I learnt how to resolve problems in the factory.”Majeda Khatun, Quality Inspector, Fariha Knit Tex Ltd.
“If management and workers can establish a good relationship, production will increase, there will be an overall improvement in the enterprise and any problems can be resolved. The mock-up PC meeting at the training clarified my concept about the effectiveness of the PC.”Shariful Islam, HR and Compliance Manager, Fame Apparels Ltd.
“After receiving this training I feel that I found the courage to speak up.”Maruf Hossain, Operator at Shanta Garments Ltd