The European Union has once again warned Bangladesh of suspending generalised system of preferences.
It also asked the government to present tangible progress on fundamental labour rights in line with the recommendations of the International Labour Organisation by August 31 this year.
In a letter, issued on May 31, the EU said that that the joint conclusions agreed at the meeting were insufficient to restore confidence in Bangladesh’s commitment to the compact.
The letter was issued in the wake of the third review meeting of sustainability compact held on May 18 in Dhaka
In the letter, which has been sent to the secretaries of foreign ministry, commerce ministry and labour ministry, the EU expressed dissatisfaction as Bangladesh did not give any reply to its previous letter issued on March 16.
Bangladesh did not present any time-bound action plan in the compact meeting in order to address ILO recommendations on labour rights, as was requested in the letter.
In the letter, signed by Sandra Gallina, director of the Directorate General of trade of the European Commission, Jordi Curell, director of labour mobility at the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission and Lotte Knudsen, managing director of Human rights, Global and multilateral issues at the European External Action Service, the EU gave Bangladesh one year for amending labour law and EPZ law.
‘We take this opportunity to recall the EU position: it is essential that the government of Bangladesh comes forward with a strategy with concrete and time-bound actions for each of the ILO recommendations ahead of the 106th session of the ILC,’ the letter said.
It is of the utmost importance and urgency to provide the compact partners and the ILO supervisory mechanisms with the necessary confidence in Bangladesh’s commitment to respect fundamental labour rights, the EU said.
In that regard, the 106th session of the International Labour Conference, which started on Sunday at Geneva, would be a key moment for assessing the progress made by Bangladesh on the ILO advisory bodies’ recommendations, the letter read.
‘The government of Bangladesh should then start immediately implementing this strategy following a pre-defined and appropriate time line, in order to deliver tangible progress by the end of August 2017,’ the EU letter says.
In the letter, the EU provided a time frame and asked Bangladesh to undertake legislative change to Bangladesh Labour Act and the implementing rules and the Export Processing Zones (EPZ) law and to present the draft of revised laws to the ILO committee of Expert on the Applications of Conventions and Recommendations by August 31.
The EU also asked the government to adopt the revised BLA and EPZ law before June 2018, the next ILC.
The government has been asked to amend the trade union-related provision of the BLA lowering the membership threshold requirements for unionisation to 10 per cent from the existing 30 per cent.
It has also been asked to bring the EPZ law in line with the ILO standard and allow full freedom of association.
The European Union asked Bangladesh to investigate unfair labour practices in a transparent and accountable manner through the development and implementation of Standard Operating Procedures by August 31.
‘With regards to the preferences granted to Bangladesh under the EU’s GSP regulation, we would like to recall that Bangladesh needs to demonstrate, as a matter of urgency, that concrete and lasting measures are taken to ensure respect of fundamental human and labour rights,’ the EU letter reads.
It also says that making tangible progress in time is essential for Bangladesh to remain eligible for the Everything But Arms regime in the economic bloc.
Without such progress, the EU monitoring could eventually lead to the launching of a formal investigation, which could result in temporary withdrawal of preferences, the letter said.
One of the high officials of the government said that discussion on time-bound action plan for addressing ILO concerns would be discussed in the ILC in Geneva on June 12.
Along with the state minister for labour Mujibul Haque, law minister Anisul Huq will attend the ILC in Geneva and the deadline for amending BLA and EPZ law would be finalised through discussion.
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