The government has finalised its response to the complaints made by worker delegates of some countries against Bangladesh about non-observance of International Labour Organisation conventions, acknowledging that the rate of rejection of applications for trade union registration is still high.
The response to the complaints about violating ILO conventions related to freedom of association, right to organise and to bargain collectively and labour inspection would be sent to the ILO by January 30.
‘We acknowledge that the rejection rate is still high, which can be reduced through training of DOL [Department of Labour] officials concerned and the workers. With support from the ILO we are continuing our efforts in this regard,’ the response read.
It also said that after adoption of standard operation procedure from May 22, 2017, the rate of rejection reduced to 26.77 per cent and there were no cases of arbitrary refusal.
At the concluding session of the International Labour Conference held in Geneva of Switzerland in June last year, the worker delegates of Italy, Pakistan, South Africa, Brazil and Japan complained that Bangladesh was not following ILO convention 87 on freedom of association and right to organise, convention 98 on right to organise and bargain collectively and convention 81 on labour inspection.
They also placed a proposal before the ILO meeting to form a commission of inquiry against Bangladesh to probe the non-observance of the ILO conventions by the country.
The government response to the complaints were finalised following a number of meetings between labour ministry, law ministry and other stakeholders to avoid formation of a commission of inquiry against the country.
In the response, the government said that Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 was amended in 2013 and 2018 through which trade union registration process was made simplified.
It also said that the minimum membership requirement to form trade union was reduced from 30 per cent to 20 per cent.
‘We have finalised our response to the complaints and it would be sent to the ILO by January 30. We have included our progresses regarding labour rights issue including trade union registration, workplace safety and worker wellbeing ,’ labour secretary KM Ali Azam told New Age on Tuesday.
The ILO delegates complained that the freedom of association had been violated in Bangladesh and the government explained its initiatives which were taken to address their concerns.
‘We said that the rejection rate of union registration applications had been going down gradually and, if necessary, we will amend the labour act again,’ the labour secretary said. Regarding the cases filed against workers for staging demonstration protesting against inconsistencies in the wage structure, the government, in its response, said that 10 of the cases had already been withdrawn and all of the arrested workers were released on bail.
It said that some 4,489 workers were terminated from 41 factories during the wage movement in December, 2018 and January, 2019 and the terminated workers received all benefits according to the existing rules.
Regarding the trade union rights for the workers in export processing zones, it said that the EPZ workers had the rights of forming Workers Welfare Association and the rights of collective bargaining in line with the ILO conventions 87 and 98.
It said the EPZ workers were more protected and facilitated as well as getting more benefits under the existing EPZ laws, rules and regulations and provisions.
Regarding labour inspection, the government response mentioned that the provision of inspections by the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) under Bangladesh Labour Act was incorporated in the Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act, 2019.