Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, a leading workers rights advocacy group, yesterday called for setting up more health centres in industrial zones to attend to workers.
At present, there are 50 worker welfare centres across the country but most of them are under-staffed and the physical infrastructure wobbly, said Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmmed, assistant executive director of BILS. “If we can modernise the existing welfare centres and ensure the presence of doctors and nurses and the availability of medicines, and set up more such centres in areas with many garment factories, we will be able to provide health care facilities to the workers.”
Ahmmed spoke at a seminar organised by BILS in association with the labour and employment ministry to mark May Day at National Press Club. The discussion particularly highlighted the group life insurance scheme the government recently launched for workers in the construction and automobile sectors.
Last year, the government initiated a five-year insurance scheme for workers in the construction and automobile sector to provide financial security to the injured labourers and families of the dead labourers in the event of an accident or death.
Monirul Islam Khan, professor of sociology at Dhaka University, who presented a paper, said steps have to be taken to popularise the insurance scheme among workers.
“The willingness of the owners will have to be ensured. Besides, instalment has to be affordable for the workers. If necessary, a government fund should be formed.”
Ahmmed backed Khan, saying there are many misconceptions among the public in general and the workers in particular about the insurance industry.
Mikail Shipar, labour secretary, who helped craft the insurance scheme, said the government also plans to introduce a pension-like old-age allowance for workers in the informal sector.
About 26 lakh people are involved in the construction sector, according to the Labour Force Survey of 2010, said Khan of Dhaka University.
He said four out of five workers get wages on a daily basis and they do not get appointment letters and other benefits entitled by the labour law. They rely on contractors for work and their monthly wage ranges between Tk 4,000 and Tk 10,000.
There is also discrepancy between the wages of a male worker and a female worker, Khan said.
Khan's paper shows 95 workers died in 2013 due mainly to fall from high-rise buildings, building collapse and electrification.
The study also found 43,992 workers are involved with 186 trade unions in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna and Rajshahi. But this represents less than 2 percent of the country's total workforce in the transport sector.