Union leaders and a rights organisation yesterday demanded an increase in the amount of compensation paid to workers in case of industrial accidents to Tk 20 lakh from the proposed Tk 2 lakh in line with the convention of International Labour Organization.
In case of death caused by industrial accidents, the amount would be 25 percent more, or Tk 25 lakh, considering the loss of future earnings, as described in the ILO Convention 121, according to the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST).
Echoing the views of the rights organisation, Wajedul Islam Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Trade Union Kendra, also a rights group, said, “The amount should be fixed following the ILO Convention 121 so that workers can receive more money in case of death and injuries during accidents.”
The views were expressed at a discussion at the office of Bangla daily Prothom Alo in Dhaka.
The demand came a couple of weeks after the cabinet approved a draft of the labour law that doubled the compensation to Tk 2 lakh. The draft is expected to be placed before parliament following vetting from the law ministry soon.
A group of rights groups and union leaders have rejected the amount and urged the government to review it.
Khan said the compensation paid to the workers was fixed at Tk 1 lakh more than a decade ago. The amount has been doubled in the proposed amendment although inflation has risen a lot over the years.
He called the amount too scanty.
Khan said the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse received more than Tk 20 lakh as compensation as it followed the ILO Convention 121 even though Bangladesh is yet to ratify the treaty.
He also urged the government to withdraw the provision that specifies the percentage of workers' participation required to form trade unions, so that they can easily establish the association.
The draft has lowered the workers' participation required to form trade unions at factories to 20 percent from 30 percent under pressure from the ILO and other international communities.
Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, suggested that the government set up labour courts in industrial zones so that workers can easily attend case hearings. The government also needs to fix a timeframe to settle labour cases, he said. “The alternative dispute resolution is also a very good option for settling cases.”
Currently, 17,121 cases are pending with the eight labour courts in the country.
Md Israfil Alam, a member of the parliamentary standing committee on the expatriates welfare and overseas employment ministry, called for effective implementation of maternity leave for workers.
The draft has awarded female workers four months' paid maternity leave which was previously without pay. However, in most cases, the law is not followed properly, he said.
Md Mujibul Haque, state minister for labour and employment, said the government-fixed compensation was realistic. He questioned how many of the owners, whose capital was Tk 10 lakh, would manage the money if they had to pay Tk 20 lakh in compensation.
Haque also said if necessary, the government would decrease the percentage of workers' participation needed to set up trade unions.
Festival allowances have been made mandatory in the proposed amendment, he said.
Prothom Alo Associate Editor Abdul Qayyum moderated the discussion, while Md Nizamul Huq, chief legal adviser of the BLAST, also spoke.