Bangladesh has promised to the European Union and other partners of Sustainability Compact that the proposed drafts of amendments to the labour law and export processing zones law will turn into laws by September this year.
The commitment was made at the fourth review meeting of the Sustainability Compact held at Brussels on June 25.
The Compact patterns were discussed on three pillars of the initiative — respect for labour rights, structural integrity of buildings and occupational safety and health and responsible business conduct.
Led by commerce minister Tofail Ahmed, an 18-member Bangladesh delegation including state minister for labour Mujibul Haque, foreign secretary Shahidul Haque, commerce secretary Shubhashish Bose, labour secretary Afroza Khan, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Md Siddiqur Rahman, among others, attended the meeting.
Following the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013 that killed more than 1,100 people, mostly garment workers, the European Union together with Bangladesh, the US and the ILO forged the Sustainability Compact in July 2013 to improve labour rights and factory safety in the country’s RMG industry. Canada subsequently joined the Compact in January 2016.
‘According to our commitment, referendum system for the formation of workers association in EPZ factories has been deleted. We have been decided to introduce the provision of labour inspection by the labour ministry in the EPZ factories,’ Tofail Ahmed said in the meeting.
He also said that the workers’ representation requirement for trade union registration was also set to be reduced to 20 per cent from the existing 30 per cent for factories both in and outside the EPZs.
One of the participants of the meeting told New Age that the government made commitment that the amendments draft to the labour law and EPZ labour law would turn in to laws by September.
‘We have finalised the draft amendment to the labour act and EPZ labour law and it would be passed in next parliamentary session scheduled for September,’ state minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque said.
About the extension of Accord and Alliance, the commerce minister informed the Compact partners that the time frame of the platforms already ended and the government gave theme six more months as transition period.
‘One of the entrepreneurs filed a case with High Court against Accord and the higher court gave the platform six more months, but not extension. We cannot go beyond the court order,’ the commerce minister said.
He said that the government formed remediation coordination cell and it would be fully functional within the short time as the government was going to appoint 47 engineers to carry out the remediation work in the factory inspected under national initiative.
Deborah Greenfield, deputy director general of International Labour Organisation, said it was important that Bangladesh ratified most of the core conventions of ILO but ratifying and ensuring workers’ rights were not the same.
She emphasised effective implementation of ILO convention saying that the number of rejection of trade union application remained still high and labour leaders in the country were still facing harassment.
‘I welcome the reduction of minimum requirements of workers for formation of trade union but the proposed 20 per cent is not satisfactory. It is still high,’ Deborah said.
She also said that Bangladesh formed RCC to take over the factory remediation responsibility but the body was not fully functional yet.
Deborah urged the government to bring under inspections the factories which were yet to be inspected.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, US ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat and Canadian high commissioner to Bangladesh Benoit Préfontaine, among others were present in the fourth review if Compact.
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