Trade union leaders and migrant rights activists on Wednesday suggested the government to send workers under bilateral agreements with overseas job destination countries to protect their rights and ensure accountability of their employers.
Speaking at a dialogue on MoUs/BLAs for Overseas Employment organised by Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment ministry at its conference room at the city’s Probashi Kallyan Bhaban, they said that the bilateral agreement was stronger than the memorandum of understanding in bargaining for the rights and benefits of migrant workers.
Overseas Employment ministry joint secretary Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman moderated the dialogue while senior officials, representatives from International Labour Organisation and non-governmental organisations were present.
Trade unionist and founder of the AWAJ Foundation Nazma Akter, who attended the dialogue, told New Age that Bangladesh government should proceed on signing BLAs with the recipient countries to protect rights of the workers.
She called for participation and involvement of workers and trade unions in all process of negotiation and consultations in light of the social dialogue defined by the ILO to protect rights of the workers.
Speaking at the dialogue, migration expert Asif Munier said Bangladesh should go for BLA with the job destination countries as the BLA could be more helpful to make accountable the employers to ensure due rights and benefits of workers than that of MoU.
He also suggested taking necessary preparations with the participation of all concerned people before signing BLA with a job destination country.
Migrant rights activist Anisur Rahman Khan said that in most occasions workers were deprived of their due rights from their employers. Bangladesh sent workers under MoUs, so the employers were more or less reluctant to ensure their rights and benefits, he added.
He stressed the need for giving all types of supports to the women workers who are the most frequent victims until they were ensured justice from their employing countries.
Debate for Democracy chairman Hassan Ahamed Chowdhury Kiron said that though the government has set maximum ceiling of the cost of migration to the outbound workers, recruiters were not following the ceiling.
He suggested maintaining a chart of migration cost at the recruiting agencies offices to help build awareness about the fixed charge.
Overseas Employment ministry additional secretary Ahmed Munirus Saleheen said migration cost has become the basic problems in the migration sector.
Both the destination and origin countries will have to be responsible to implement the existing MoUs, he added.
Ministry’s additional secretary Aminul Islam said that due to huge supply of workers from Bangladesh, they could not bargain strongly with the employing countries.
So the workers’ rights and others benefits should be mentioned in the BLAs and MOUs properly to their enhance negotiation capacity, he observed.
Though Bangladeshi workers migrate to 165 countries for jobs, Bangladesh signed bilateral agreements with only two countries, MOU with 11 and MOC with one.
Absence of formal arrangements with most of the destination countries make ‘our workers vulnerable abroad,’ officials and rights activists told New Age.
Bangladesh has bilateral agreements regarding manpower recruitment in place with only Kuwait and Qatar, according to Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.
A memorandum of cooperation with Japan provides for sending technical interns from Bangladesh, said BMET.
And memorandums of understanding for sending workers are in place with Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, South Korea, Oman, Libya, Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Maldives and Kampuchea.
According to the International Labour Organization, bilateral agreements provide effective collaboration mechanism between countries of origin and destinations for migration of workers under agreed principles and procedures.
The ILO advises countries of origin and destination to make bilateral agreements to serve the interests of both the sides, and particularly to protect the interests of migrant workers.
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