Labour bodies oppose abolition of group insurance

Staff Correspondent | Updated at 11:52pm on September 08, 2018

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A file photo shows workers are busy at a readymade garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka. Labour rights groups have opposed the proposal for abolition of group insurance for workers of export-oriented industries in the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill 2018 approved by the cabinet on Monday. — New Age photo

Labour rights groups have opposed the proposal for abolition of group insurance for workers of export-oriented industries in the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill 2018 approved by the cabinet on September 3.
As per the proposed amendments, hundred per cent export-oriented industrial sector for which central fund has been established would be exempted from group insurance for its workers and the deceased and injured workers in the sector would receive amount equivalent to group insurance from the central fund.
In the existing labour act, the group insurance and central fund are separate issues, said labour leaders.
The central fund in the existing act was introduced for export-oriented industrial sector exempting the factory owners from the provision of sharing profits with workers.
Since the latest amendment to the labour act in 2013, central fund has been established for only the readymade garment sector and as per the labour law the government has been collecting 0.03 per cent of the price of freight on board from the factory owners from July 1, 2016.
As per the Section 99 of the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006, it is mandatory for the employer of an establishment, where at least 100 permanent workers are employed, to introduce group insurance under the existing insurance laws.
‘Provided that the recovery of the insurance claim due to death of a worker shall be the responsibility of the employer,’ the labour act stipulated.
Labour leaders said that the proposed abolition of group insurance was against the interest of workers as factory owners should be liable for introducing group insurance and to pay premium from their own fund.
The factory owners must not have any access to the central fund as the money of the fund is only for workers, Bangladesh Trade Union Centre general secretary Wajed-ul Islam Khan told New Age on Saturday.
‘This fund is for workers and its money is only for the workers. Why should the factory owners use this money? It is not acceptable that the owners would be exempted from paying premium of group insurance and workers’ money will be used as insurance claim,’ Wajed-ul Islam said.
In 2008, the Awami League in its election manifesto promised to amend the labour act as per the International Labour Organisation conventions if voted to power but the pledge remained unmet, he added.
‘We are strongly opposing the proposed exemption of RMG factory owners from group insurance as it will be nothing but an attempt to deprive workers of their rights,’ said former IndustriAll Bangladesh council secretary general Md Towhidur Rahman.
The owners intend to enforce a system to ensure welfare of workers with their (workers) money, he claimed.
Towhidur said that the protesting garment workers’ trade union organisation would submit a memorandum to the prime minister today for reconsidering the bill.
Sramik Nirapatta Forum convener Hameeda Hossain said that the exemption of factory owners from group insurance would not protect workers’ welfare and rights.
It is one kind of indemnity for factory owners from their responsibility, the forum said in a release.
Despite having a legal binding for group insurance, the garment factory owners stopped the process from November 2017 and started realising amount equivalent to insurance claim directly from the central fund.
According to the labour rules, the money would be deposited equally in two accounts under central fund –– beneficiary account and contingency account.
Grants for workers or their families would be taken from the beneficiary account while amount deposited in the contingency account would be used to meet the dues of workers of any closed factory if its owner is unable to pay the workers and to paid premium of group insurance.