The government has decided to lower the membership requirement threshold for trade union registration up to 20 per cent in its draft amendments to the labour act after the International Labour Organisation expressed dissatisfaction over the threshold.
According to the Bangladesh Labour Act, membership of at least 30 per cent of workers is mandatory for the registration of a trade union at any establishment.
Under the pressure of trade union leaders and international labour rights advocates, the government prepared the draft amendments to the act, proposing four slabs of worker representation — establishments having less than 2,000 workers, the requirement would be 30 per cent, 2,001 to 5,000 workers 27 per cent, 5,001 to 7,500 workers 24 per cent and 7,501 workers or more 20 per cent — for the trade union registration.
The draft was sent to the ILO on August 31 last year.
‘We have decided in principle to reduce the membership requirement threshold for trade union registration and slabs,’ state minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque told New Age on Sunday.
‘Now we are going to propose two slabs of worker representation. For up to 5,000 workers in an establishment, the membership requirement threshold for trade union registration would be 25 per cent and for 5001 workers or more it would be 20 per cent,’ Mujibul said.
In a recent report, the ILO expressed its dissatisfaction over the draft amendments saying that the proposed amendments did not respond to longstanding concerns of the ILO and the minor reduction in the minimum membership requirement proposed by the government was unlikely to have an impact on a large number of enterprises and thus would not, in any meaningful manner, contribute to the free establishment of workers’ organisations.
An expert committee of ILO urged the government to take necessary measures to review sections 179(2) and 179(5) of the BLA without any delay in consultation with social partners, with a view to truly reducing the minimum membership requirement.
‘A trade union of workers shall not be entitled to registration under this Chapter, unless it has a minimum membership of 30 per cent of the total number of workers employed in the establishment in which it is formed,’ sections 179(2) of Bangladesh Labour Act stipulates.
According to the Section 179(5) of the BLA, no registration will be provided to more than three trade unions at any time in an establishment or group of establishments.
The state minister did not make any comment on the issue whether changes would also be made in the other provisions of the BLA about which the ILO expressed reservations.
He said that the draft amendments to the BLA would be finalised through consultations with local and international stakeholders before the next International Labour Conference to be held in June this year in Geneva.
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