Bangladesh will soon place the draft law of the proposed Export-Processing Zones (EPZ) Labour Act, 2016, to the Parliament after a review in August to bring the necessary amendment as per the requirement of the ILO.
Bangladesh submitted this commitment to the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards at the annual conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), now in progress in Geneva.
International communities, especially, the EU and the US, have been putting pressure on Bangladesh's government over the last few years to bring the necessary amendment to the EPZ laws for allowing full freedom of association.
The EU has already sent letters to the government twice, threatening the suspension of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), that the country has been enjoying under the EU's 'Everything but Arms' scheme, if the EPZ law is not amended as per the special paragraph of the International Labour Conference of 2016.
In a document submitted to the ILO on Tuesday, Bangladesh said that the newly created Tripartite Technical Committee (TTC) for amendment of the Bangladesh Labour Act had already held its first meeting, demonstrating that work was being done to conform to the standards of the ILO.
Both the Tripartite Consultative Council (TCC) and the newly created RMG Tripartite Consultative Committee (RMG TCC) would be supported by the ILO, serving as their secretariat, Bangladesh informed the ILO at the Geneva meeting.
A transparent remediation strategy with a timeline is to be developed and shared with the Committee by the end of August 2017. Access to further funding should be facilitated and recruitment of 169 labour inspectors should be finalised by June 2018, Bangladesh said.
Bangladesh also reaffirmed the government's commitment to a better and safer workplace for workers and to uphold their rights to collective bargaining, freedom of association and their right to strike for realising their legal demands.
Legislative amendments are ongoing and the government is also engaging with factory owners, businesses and buying houses to ensure that they follow good business practices and recognise that responsible behaviour by all stakeholders is a necessary factor for progress in the the area of labour rights.
The government further reiterated its achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all by 2030, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The speaker stated that Bangladesh sought continued cooperation, support and understanding from their international friends and partners in order to achieve these goals.
In the meeting, the worker members recalled that, for the last five years, Bangladesh had repeatedly appeared before the Committee to explain why it had failed to make any progress in relation to ILO Conventions, in particular Convention No. 87 which deals with freedom of association and protection of labour rights.
Each year, the government had made claims and excuses and concluded with promises to do better the following year.
These promises were left unfulfilled and the situation worsened each passing year, the worker members said.
The government had still made no progress to implement the repeated observations of the Committee of Experts, the recommendations of the 2016 high-level tripartite mission to Bangladesh and the conclusions of the Conference Committee, the worker members further observed.
The special paragraph that the Committee had applied last year to signal the serious concern with the government's failures had had no effect whatsoever, the worker member said.