Govt to finally relax rules for trade unionism
Under pressure from the international community and rights groups, the government has finally agreed to ease the requirements for forming trade unions at factories in the next amendment of the labour law.
At present, signatures of at least 30 percent of the workers in the factory are needed to form a trade union -- an uphill task for union leaders. Furthermore, many workers do not want to participate in the election process of trade unions out of fear of getting sacked.
The requisite number of signatories might now be brought down to 15-20 percent. It might be even lower for large factories.
The decision came at a meeting of Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Law Minister Anisul Huq and State Minister for Labour Mujibul Haque Chunnu at the secretariat yesterday.
At the meeting, the ministers discussed the recent feedback from the International Labour Organisation on the draft of the amended labour law that it forwarded in August.
“We also suggested the government put the percentage at a tolerable level so that the industry can be benefited from the practice of healthy trade unionism,” said Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, who also attended the meeting.
“We are working on the feedback from the ILO,” Chunnu told reporters after the meeting.
Huq said the prime minister's consent on the revised drafts will be solicited before forwarding it to the ILO again.
The government will send the final draft copy of the proposed amendment to the ILO within a day or two, according to a participant at yesterday's meeting.
The expert committee of the ILO is scheduled to start its three week-long meeting in Geneva from today to review the labour practices by different countries including Bangladesh.
The committee will give its feedback on the proposed amendment of labour law of Bangladesh in February next year, said an official of the ILO's Dhaka office asking not to be named.
This means the amendment of the labour law within the stipulated timeframe of November is unlikely.
The EU, the US and the ILO have been putting pressure on the government for amendment of the labour law for workers, including those employed at factories housed inside of the Export Processing Zones.
In the previous amendment of the labour law in July 2013, the government put a provision of 30 percent signatories for forming a trade union, which the rights groups think is a barrier to full freedom of association at the factory level.