ILO member states to propose inquiry commission against Bangladesh

Staff Correspondent | Published: 00:00, Aug 26,2019


A file photo shows a group of readymade garment workers holding demonstrations in front of the previous headquarters of BGMEA in the capital recently to press home their different demands. — New Age photo

A proposal to form commission of inquiry against Bangladesh would be placed before the next governing body meeting of International Labour Organisation to be held in late October this year as a number of member countries have filed complaints against the Bangladesh government about violation of ILO conventions, sources said.

At the concluding session of International Labour Conference held in Geneva of Switzerland in June this year, worker delegates of Italy, Pakistan, South Africa, Brazil and Japan complained that Bangladesh was not following the ILO convention 87 on freedom of association and right to organise, the convention 98 on right to organise and bargain collectively and the convention 81 on labour inspection.

The labour delegates in a letter to ILO director general Guy Ryder said that there was no doubt workers in Bangladesh faced extraordinary obstacles to the exercise of their right to freedom of association, to organise and to bargain collectively.

‘We, the undersigned delegates to the 108th Session of the International Labour Conference, request the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry without delay against the Government of Bangladesh for its serious and systematic non-observance of Convention no 87, no 98 and no 81,’ the letter read.

It said despite repeated calls, Bangladesh had continuously failed to bring its labour laws including the Bangladesh Labour Act and the EPZ Labour Act, anywhere close to compliance with these conventions.

The delegates alleged that anti-union discrimination, including violence, threats and dismissal, with near total impunity persisted.

‘Even when workers overcome these obstacles, the Government routinely refuses to register trade unions to allow them to carry out their activities legally,’ the letter said.

The letter said that the government passed amendments to the Bangladesh Labour Act on October last year, reducing the threshold of minimum member requirement to establish a trade union in a factory to 20 per cent from 30 per cent but it was still a violation of the convention 87.

The delegates said that they had tracked 1,031 union registration applications between 2010 and 2018, and found that the labour department rejected 46 per cent of the applications.

‘In one case, the workers in a factory repeatedly applied for registration, with well over 70 per cent of workers signed as member of the union. Yet, the union was denied registration five times in 2016 and 2017, arguing that signatures did not match exactly. Meanwhile, the RTU immediately approved the application of a management-dominated union at the same factory,’ the delegates alleged.

Mollah Jalal Uddin, additional secretary of the labour ministry, told New Age that they were working on the issue and a reply to the allegations made by the delegates of some countries would be sent to the governing body of ILO.

They proposed to establish a commission of inquiry against Bangladesh but it does not indicate that the commission would be formed in the next meeting of the ILO governing body, he said, adding that rather the meeting would scrutinise the authenticity of the proposal.

‘Amendment of laws including BLA is a continuous process. We have already addressed many concerns raised by the ILO and we will go for more changes if necessary in coming days,’ Jalal Uddin said.

He said that Bangladesh made a lot of progress in amending laws in line with ILO recommendations and the government would place its progress report before the governing body meeting of the labour organisation.

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