Deepening the skills of union master trainers

One of the main lessons learned from the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster, which resulted in death and injury for thousands of workers, was the consequences of un-unionised workplaces with few legislative rights. Workers, who were unable to voice their concern about unsafe work and who could not easily refuse to enter the building because they were scared of losing their job, were particularly vulnerable to the disaster that occurred.

Since then there has been considerable growth in the number of trade unions in the RMG sector. However there is a steep learning curve for new unions so that they can play an effective role in ensuring workplace safety, advocate worker’s claims and defend workers’ rights.
ILO Dhaka, in partnership with its ILO/ITC-International Training Centre, Turin and Bureau for Workers Activities (ACTRAV) is providing help for trade union organizations under the National Coordination Committee on Workers Education (NCCWE) to improve the capacity of workers to organize through a workers education programme. Similar training is also being held with the IndustriAll Bangladesh Council (IBC).
The strategy uses the Training of Trainers (TOT) approach by equipping core groups of trainers/ organizers. These master trainers will then conduct a number of follow-up training sessions targeting an estimated 2,700 potential organizers/ trainers at factory level in the RMG sector.
A three day training workshop was held in Dhaka 7-9 May 2015, as a follow up to previously held training for NCCWE members on Freedom of Association, organizing and labour law. Areas covered during the refresher session included core international labour conventions and related Bangladesh labour laws as well as their practical application in the workplace. Other areas covered included union registration, collective bargaining how workers can be better engaged in processes to promote safe workplaces.
In the six months since the start of this ILO-supported training series, the NCCWE federations have registered 10 new unions and established around 100 union factory committees (embryonic non-registered unions) across the RMG sector.
Speaking at the training Mr Abdul Mukit Khan, Chairperson of the NCCWE said, “The union movement needs more competent leaders and this type of training is essential to help us do that.”
Helping facilitate the training was Leigh Hubbard of the Senior Industrial officer of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.

“The purpose of the sessions is to make sure that trainees have really clear messages to deliver on health and safety as well as organising. The participants are familiar with international norms but need to try to implement them here in Bangladesh where there is a poor attitude to unions in the workplace. We need to get more knowledge out about rights, about acting together and that unions are not terrible things, that they are good things that can be cooperative and consultative in the workplace.
“These 39 NCCWE trainers plus those from IBC will go out and train others in the workplace. If all goes to plan we will have a large group who can have conversations with co-workers, whether in lunch rooms or communities, about what workers’ rights are and why being in a trade union is the only way to address their many problems,” he added.