Labour law in slow lane
Factory owners are slow to implement the labour law amended a year ago, as the government is yet to put in place a set of regulations for enforcement.
In July 15 last year, the government amended the labour law of 2006 allowing workers full freedom of association. Some factories and trade unions then started applying the amended law without the regulations.
The new labour law and its enforcement through regulations were two major conditions for regaining trade benefits from the United States.
A sustainability compact signed with the European Union on July 8 last year also made it mandatory for Bangladesh to improve workplace safety standards and labour rights.
The EU will observe progress in safety efforts for one year before taking any trade measure against Bangladesh.
But the labour and employment ministry missed the March deadline to finalise the regulations.
“We could not finalise the regulations in time as we have to consult with many stakeholders and particularly with the leaders of the garment sector,” said Mikail Shipar, labour secretary.
“We are working on a draft to finalise the regulations by July or August.”
New issues have been incorporated in the amended labour law, he said, adding his ministry has to explain details of the law to avoid confusion.
The labour law without the regulations created confusions during its application at the factory level, Shipar said.
Shipar said the factories can apply the amended law now. “Many factories started applying the law without following the regulations.”
Trade union leaders are facing problems because of the absence of the regulations, said Sirajul Islam Rony, workers' representative on the minimum wage board for garment workers. With the labour law in place, the workers can form three trade unions in a factory, said Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. “The only requirement is a consensus of 30 percent workers at the factory.”
After the suspension of the generalised system of preferences by the Obama administration in June 27 last year, the US urged Bangladesh to amend the labour law and finalise the regulations.