Labour leaders, owners give contrasting pictures of rights situation to EU team

Staff Correspondent | Published: 00:00, Oct 16,2019

 
 

Labour rights groups and factory owners have given a European Union delegation contrasting pictures of labour rights situation in Bangladesh.

The delegation on Monday started its three-day visit in Dhaka to know the progress Bangladesh has made on labour rights issues in line with the conventions of International Labour Organisation as part of a review of Bangladesh’s eligibility to continue receiving trade benefits under Everything But Arms regime in the EU.

The delegation led by Nikolaos Zaimis, director general for trade of the European Commission, held a meeting with factory owners on Tuesday and a meeting with labour leaders on Monday.

Issues including right to organise, minimum membership threshold for forming trade union, trade union rights for workers in export processing zones, safety inspection procedure in EPZ factories and rejection of trade union registration application were discussed at the meetings, sources said.

At Monday’s meeting, labour leaders informed the EU delegation that more than 11,000 RMG workers were terminated from their jobs due to taking part in demonstrations demanding wage hike in December, 2018 and January this year.

They said that many workers had been facing criminal charges filed by factory owners.

Labour leaders informed the EC officials that ILO conventions were being violated in Bangladesh and workers had been forced to do over-time for four hours a day instead of two hours.

Trade unions are getting registration in a very slow pace and the existing labour laws are not workers friendly, labour leaders informed the EU team.

National Garment Workers Federation president Amirul Haque Amin, former Industriall Bangladesh Council secretary general Towhidur Rahman and Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation president Babul Akter attended the meeting, among others.

At Tuesday’s meeting, leaders of Bangladesh Employers Federation, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association presented the progress Bangladesh has made in the area of worker rights.

Sources said that issues related to termination of workers in the readymade garment factories and criminal charges against workers centring wage increase movement in December, 2018 and January this year were also discussed at the meeting.

BGMEA president Rubana Huq informed the delegation that a total of 27 wage related cases were filed against workers and 10 of them had already been withdrawn.

Regarding workers’ termination, she said that nearly 4,000 workers were terminated although labour rights groups claimed 12,000 workers had been terminated.

Rubana claimed that the number of registered trade unions reached 831 and of the unions, 693 were registered since 2013 after the Rana Plaza building collapse that claimed more than 1,100 people, mostly garment workers.

The BGMEA president said that the minimum wages of RMG workers increased by 162 per cent since 2010 but the prices of apparel products declined by 1.61 per cent in last four years in the global market.

Rubana told reporters that the delegation had queries on trade union issues including low rate of online trade union registration.

The EU team also stressed reducing further the workers’ participation threshold for trade union registration to 10 per cent from 20 per cent, she said.

BKMEA first vice-president Mohammad Hatem said the delegation stressed ensuring labour rights in line with ILO conventions and ratifying the ILO convention related to child labour to get GSP Plus benefit.

The delegation will sit with the government’s high-ups today.

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