Tofail terms US Congressmen’s letter indecent

Staff Correspondent

Six US Congressmen, who last week wrote a letter to prime minister Sheikh Hasina expressing concerns over the alleged intimidation of labour union in Bangladesh, will be invited soon to see for themselves the ‘improved’ labour rights situation, said commerce minister Tofail Ahmed on Monday.
He said the letter to be sent to the congressmen will also elaborate how the transformation in the country’s apparel sector is taking place to benefit the workers in the RMG sector after the industrial disaster of Rana Plaza.
Tofail made the comments after a meeting with the US ambassador in Dhaka Dan W Mozena at his secretariat office.
He said the letter sent by six Congressmen was ‘indecent’, given the ‘satisfactory’ improvement prevailing in the apparel sector involving its workers and labour leaders.
‘The letter is indecent and political’, Tofail told reporters.
The commerce minister said based on false information provided by IndustriAll, the US Congressmen had raised their concern.
Six US congressmen on June 30 expressed serious concern over an increased intimidation and harassment of labour activists, while Bangladesh is working to restore the Generalised System of Preferences facility to the US market.
The Congressmen — George Miller, Sander M Levin, Grace Meng, Eliot L Engel, Joseph Crowley and Janice D Schakowsky — expressed their concern in a letter sent to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
In June last year, the US suspended Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the GSP, citing the country’s failure in ensuring proper worker rights.
The Congressmen issued warning against Bangladesh following recent comments on labour rights and workers’ freedom of association by Tofail Ahmed and Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, sources said.
The letter reads : ‘We are pleased to see the government take some initial steps in response to the GSP action plan, and we welcome the increase in the registration of labour unions along with the other changes that have been made to improve working conditions in the garment export industry.
‘In particular, as union registrations have increased, we have also seen an increase in intimidation and harassment of labour activists. This is a serious concern to the United States government, including the US Congress.’
They urged Hasina to intervene as the Congressmen said they will not tolerate this kind of intimidation and violence.
Tofail said the IndustriAll after sending letter to US Congressmen seeking remedy against the so-called labour intimidation in the apparel sector now denies having made such communication with US authorities.
He said the government had registered over 150 labour unions in the garment sector in the last 18 months.
‘The registration of unions is the testimony that the government is positive towards trade union activities in the industrial sector,’ Tofail told the reporters.
Talking to reporters, ambassador Mozena said unfair labour practices, particularly crackdown on labour activists, are not acceptable and ‘must stop immediately.’

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