EPZ workers allowed to bargain

Cabinet okays draft EPZ labour law

Staff Correspondent

The cabinet on Monday approved in principle the draft ‘Bangladesh EPZ Labour Bill – 2014’, allowing workers in the export processing zones to form welfare associations with the capacity to bargain for rights.
‘The EPZ workers will now have the right to form workers’ welfare associations that will have the bargaining capacity to protect their rights,’ cabinet secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told a press briefing after the cabinet meeting.
He said the draft of EPZ labour law had been prepared in line with the labour law and the EPZ workers’ welfare association and industrial relations law.
Musharraf said the workers in the EPZ remained outside the jurisdiction of the Labour Act of 2006, which was amended in 2013, as they got higher pays in dollars and other facilities.
‘This law will help protect the rights of workers in the export processing zones, which play an important role raising the foreign investment in Bangladesh,’ he added.
He said the new law having 16 sections and 204 articles would regulate workers’ appointments, safety, wages and working hours, among others.
There will be an EPZ Appellate Tribunal to deal with offences under the law, according to the draft.
The Prime Minister’s Office placed the draft at the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by the prime minister Sheikh Hasina at the secretariat.
Asked about possible reactions of the investors who set up factories in the EPZs on the condition that the workers’ right to trade unionism would not be entertained in the exclusive areas, the cabinet secretary said the draft was prepared in consultation with all stakeholders to ensure rights of the workers.
He said 30 per cent workers of a factory will have to apply for constituting a workers’ association, which will be registered with the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority.
Each factory will have one association, which will have an executive committee elected by workers.
‘The association will function as a bargaining agent to be registered with BEPZA… But a trade union is registered with the department of labour,’ state minister for labour Mujibul Haque told New Age.
He said family of an EPZ worker would get two lakh if s/he dies as a worker while the amount was Tk one lakh for a worker outside the EPZ.
The primary objective of an EPZ is to provide special areas where potential investors would find a congenial investment climate, free from cumbersome procedures, according to officials.
The cabinet also approved the draft Export Promotion Bureau Bill 2014 updating an ordinance of 1977 with few changes in the formation of EPB board.
The board would include officials from ministries of agriculture, environment and information communications technology as members instead of one officer, who represented the agriculture and forests ministry in the past, according to the draft.
It okayed the draft of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory (Amendment) Bill, 2014 to redefine the eligibility of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory chairman and its members. It includes a provision for inclusion of a member having experiences in power generation, the cabinet secretary said.

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