Human rights of workers engaged in informal sectors and managerial staff in formal sector have remained severely ignored in absence of legal protection and practices, experts, human rights activists and policy makers have said.
At a seminar on business and human rights on Wednesday, they also said that private sector employers must ensure human rights of workers as it was legally binding issue globally.
National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh and the United Nations Development Programme jointly organised the seminar at Hotel Sonargaon in the capital to promote human rights in industries in light with the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.
Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies executive director Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmmed said that the country’s laws and regulations related to human rights should be reassessed as the laws were not providing any protection to around 80 per cent of workers engaged in informal sectors and staff in managerial and supervisory positions in formal sector.
There are also no pay scales for most of both the formal and the informal sectors, he observed.
State minister for finance and planning MA Mannan said that human rights had direct relation with businesses in both the local and the global context.
Businesses should put more focus on protecting human rights of workers, their welfare, social and economic development for protecting business interest in global markets, he suggested.
Necessary legal framework was required for protecting the human rights at industries, he added.
Ain O Salish Kendra executive director Sheepa Hafiza said that human rights of the workers in the country’s informal sector had completely remained out of legal framework.
Domestic helps were being forced for excessive labour in exchange for a very nominal payment violating
human rights, she pointed out.
NHRC chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque urged businesses to ensure the rights of workers at workplace.
He said that expenditure under corporate social responsibility was encouraging but CSR expenditure was charity while protection of human rights of workers was the fundamental right.
He said that the country’s readymade garment sector had achieved significant improvement in working conditions and workers’ right but the issues remained ignored in many other sectors.
He also requested the government for establishing a chit fund with the tax money for providing pension benefit for private sector employees.
International Labour Organisation programme officer Uttam Das said that export-oriented industries should follow the UN guiding principles as the developed countries under the Organisaiton for Economic Cooperation and Development might make the compliance of the principles mandatory for exporting countries.
Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry former president Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed said that businesses should have respect for human rights of workers and ensure the rights.
Creating awareness among entrepreneurs was a must for promotion of human rights at industries, he said.
NHRC member Nurun Nahar Osmani also stressed ensuring human rights of workers at their factories first before moving forward with CSR activities for external beneficiaries.
She said that there were hundreds of case related to wage and other rights of workers remained pending with labour courts.
National Board of Revenue chairman Md Nojibur Rahman, NHRC member Md Nazrul Islam, Shahjalal Islami Bank Ltd chairman Md Towhidur Rahman, UNDP country director Sudipto Mukerjee, UNDP Human Rights Programme chief technical adviser Sharmeela Rassool made a presentation on the issue at the seminar.
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