REGIONAL SEMINAR ON UNION RIGHTS

Restrictive labour laws deny trade unions’ freedom

Staff Correspondent
International Labour Organisation country director for Bangladesh Srinivas B Reddy speaks at the inauguration ceremony of a three-day regional seminar on union rights organised by the Bureau for Workers’ Activities of the ILO in Dhaka on Tuesday. ACTRAV director Maria Helena Andre is also seen, among others. — New Age photo

International Labour Organisation country director for Bangladesh Srinivas B Reddy speaks at the inauguration ceremony of a three-day regional seminar on union rights organised by the Bureau for Workers’ Activities of the ILO in Dhaka on Tuesday. ACTRAV director Maria Helena Andre is also seen, among others. — New Age photo

Trade union leaders of the Asia-Pacific region on Tuesday said that restrictive labour laws denied basic freedom to trade unions, workers and unions in playing a positive and contributory role in the development agenda of the countries in the region.
At the inauguration ceremony of a three-day regional seminar on union rights organised by the Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV) of International Labour Organisation at Hotel Sonargaon in the capital, labour leaders form 20 countries called for strong efforts to ensure workers’ rights by removing obstacles to union rights.
Speaking at the opening session, ACTRAV director Maria Helena Andre said that trade unions play a major role in reducing inequality, eradicating poverty and uplifting the economic conditions of workers and their families by promoting fair distribution of income through social dialogue with employers and governments.
She outlined the role and importance of the social partners and the ILO to ensure trade union rights, saying that ‘poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere’.
Srinivas B Reddy, ILO country director for Bangladesh, said that like Bangladesh, many countries in the Asia-Pacific region experienced unparalleled growth and enjoyed higher employment in industrial and service sectors but there remained a gap between growth of the sector and the growth of trade unions.
‘The gap should be addressed with utmost sincerity to ensure freedom of association and right to collective bargaining for the workers,’ he said.
Mahendra Sharma, representative of the International Transport Workers Federetion and the Global Union Federation drew attention of the seminar on the work of the tripartite partners of the ILO.
He demanded full implementation of ILO Conventions 87 on freedom of association and protection of the right to organise and 98 on the right to organise and collective bargaining.
‘We believe that the trade unions can play a definitive role in supporting the governments by paving ways for positive dialogue for the betterment of the workers,’ labour secretary Mikail Shipar said.
He said that the government of Bangladesh is working to enforce workers’ right by enhancing capacity of labour inspection system, in which ILO is providing vital support.
Sabrina Islam, vice president of Bangladesh Employers’ Federation said that the BEF encouraged the role of trade unions in the enterprise as they were partners in production and development.
Md Zafrul Hassan, chairperson of National Coordination Committee for Workers’ Education, said that the Asia-Pacific region has seen steady economic growth for a number of years but at the same time there has been a decline in basic human and trade union rights.
He urged the trade union leaders to consider how to strengthen dialogue at enterprise, industrial and national levels to halt the weakening of union rights.
Around 40 trade union leaders from Bangladesh, China, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are taking part in the seminar.
The seminar will focus on the growth in trade union membership and increasing efforts to organising union in different sectors in the region.
The issues including increasing abuse of union rights, harassment, detention of trade union leaders, denial of rights to form unions, right to collective bargaining and severe restrictions on right to industrial action, including right to strike will be discussed in the seminar.



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