The government has taken a move to amend the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 further to address the concerns raised by the European Union over specific labour issues including freedom of association and rights to collective bargaining.
The labour ministry has already formed a tripartite committee to amend the BLA as per the ‘suggested actions on labour rights’ provided by the EU in November last year to continue receiving tariff preferences in the economic bloc under the new generalised scheme of preferences from 2024.
Responding to the EU suggestions, the government in January submitted a time-bound action plan to the EU to address the bloc’s concerns within six months to two years.
The EU incorporated nine issues including amendment of BLA, labour rules and EPZ labour law in line with International Labour Organisation conventions, establishing an action plan to eliminate child labour by 2025, combating violence against workers, increasing success rate of trade union registration application, eliminating backlog of cases at labour courts, filling the vacant posts of labour inspectors, ensuring proper work of remediation coordination cell and ratifying ILO conventions 29 and 138.
‘The ministry has recently formed a tripartite committee to amend the BLA in line with its promise to the EU and the committee will start its work soon.’ labour ministry additional secretary Md Rezaul Haque told New Age on Saturday.
He said that as per the government promise the further amendment to the BLA would be completed by the first quarter of 2022 and labour rules by the first half of 2021.
‘Although the committee was formed on October 11, we are yet to start our work due to a minor error as two more representatives from the Department of Labour and the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments will be included in the committee,’ Rezaul, also the head of the tripartite committee, said.
The European Commission in its third biennial report on the GSP in February said that during the 2018-2019 reporting period, the European Commission Services and the European External Action Service conducted monitoring missions in Bangladesh and found serious shortcomings in the area of freedom of association.
The report said that countries that were unwilling to address and engage on issues of concern were being more closely scrutinised and through enhanced engagement, the EU intensified the dialogue with three EBA beneficiaries — Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar — to press for concrete actions on and sustainable solutions to serious shortcomings in respecting fundamental human and labour rights.
It said that during an EU monitoring mission in October 2019, the Bangladeshi authorities agreed to develop a roadmap with timeframes for improving labour rights, notably by amending the Bangladesh Labour Act and the Export Processing Zone Act.
The EC report also said that Bangladesh indicated its intention to adopt a National implementation plan to implement the large number of United Nations Universal Periodic Review recommendations accepted by the country.
The EU is the largest export destination for Bangladesh and the main export items under EBA from Bangladesh to the destination are apparel and clothing.
A labour ministry senior official said that they had taken the move to amend the BLA for the third time as the government provided a time-bound action plan to the EU to remain eligible for everything but arms facility.
The government had amended 87 issues in several sections in 2013 and 50 issues in several sections and schedules in 2018 in the BLA.