Govt mulls law changes for EPZ workers’ freedom of association

Tofail, Mujibul hold meetings with EP delegation

Staff Correspondent | Published: 22:59, Mar 28,2017

 
 

A BEPZA web site photo shows the main gate of the Dhaka Export Processing Zone at Savar, on the outskirts of the capital. The government is mulling over an idea to make changes to some provisions of the Bangladesh Labour Act and to adjust the provision related to Workers Welfare Association for the EPZ workers to the International Labour Organisation convention on freedom of association.

The government is mulling over an idea to make changes to some provisions of the Bangladesh Labour Act and to adjust the provision related to Workers Welfare Association for the EPZ workers to the International Labour Organisation convention on freedom of association.
Two ministers of the Bangladesh government on Tuesday assured the visiting team of European Parliament members that Bangladesh would take all necessary steps to address the concerns raised by the EU regarding labour situation in Bangladesh.
The four-member EP delegation that includes Arne Lietz, co-rapporteur on the garments report committee, Linda McAvan, EP chair of the development committee, Nobert Neuser, development coordinator of S&D, and Agnes Jongerius, member of international trade committee of S&D, on Tuesday held separate meetings with commerce minister Tofail Ahmed and state minister for labour Mujibul Haque at the Bangladesh secretariat in the capital Dhaka.
‘We will give importance to the issues the EU is concerned about because we are getting benefits from the EU,’ Tofail Ahmed said at a press briefing after the meeting with the delegation.
He said that the government introduced Workers Welfare Association for the workers of the factories housed in the export processing zones, which was similar to trade union.
‘As per the discussion with the members of the EU parliament we will adjust the provision of WWA for the EPZ workers to the ILO convention,’ the commerce minister said.
The EU delegation demanded ensuring freedom of association and protection of the rights to organise and collective bargaining as per the ILO convention 87 and 98.
Tofail hoped that there would not be any problem between the EU and Bangladesh and all the issues would be resolved through discussion.
Chief of the EP delegation Arne Lietz said the EPZ law needed to be rethought in line with the UN labour convention.
State minister for labour Mujibul Haque told reporters that the EU delegation discussed the ‘Special Paragraph’ of the ILO that recommended that Bangladesh undertake amendments to the labour act to address the issues relating to freedom of association and collective bargaining, to introduce same standards and equal labour rights in and outside EPZ factories and to simplify the trade union registration process.
‘Not for the suggestion of the EU or the ILO, we feel urgency on our own to amend some provisions of the labour act and within a short time we will sit with the national tripartite consultation committee on the amendment,’ he said.
Mujibul said that they informed the delegation that the tripartite consultation committee would take decision on which provisions would be amended and then a committee would be formed to carry out the task.
‘Regarding EPZ law, we told them that the issue is out of the jurisdiction of the labour ministry and it completely depends on the Prime Minister’s Office,’ the junior minister said.
He said that the issue of wages of the readymade garment workers and the inequality between the public and the private sectors regarding maternity leave were also discussed in the meeting.
The labour ministry informed the delegation that the minimum wage board for the RMG workers would be restructured in 2018. 

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