I am a manager (administration and HR) working at a large garments factory located in Savar. My company has recently announced that it will form a Participation Committee. Although a brief explanation has been given to us about what a Participation Committee is, I am still sketchy as to the details. It would be really helpful if you may let me know the details, as I am given the responsibility to do the needful for the formation of the committee.
Alamgir Kabir, Dhaka
Dear Mr. Kabir,Thank You for your query. Firstly, I would like to congratulate your company, as forming a Participation Committee (PC) is most definitely a very positive and prudent step for any organization. It is important to understand what a PC actually is. In very simple terms, a PC is a committee made up of representatives of the workers and representatives of the employer.
The main reason why a PC is required, is because workers need a voice. A very important lesson from the Rana Plaza disaster was that the workers needed a voice against unsafe working conditions. Even though the workers were reluctant to enter the building, they were unable to resist the compulsion. At the Tazreen factory fire, the workers were not allowed to leave their workstation, even though they wanted to leave after hearing the fire alarms. It is believed that an effective workers' voice would have been able to raise workers' safety concerns and insisted on their right to leave the Tazreen factory or to stay outside the Rana Plaza building.
Furthermore, PC is required by the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 (BLA). According to Section 205 of BLA, the employer of every factory, in which at least 50 workers are employed shall have to constitute a participatory committee in his factory within 3 months of starting operations. The PC must consist of representatives of the employer and the workers. The number of representatives of the workers cannot be less than the number of representatives of the employer. The representatives of the workers shall be appointed on the basis of nomination given by the trade unions in the factory. In case the factory does not have any trade union, the representative of the workers in the PC shall be elected from amongst the workers working in the factory. In such a factory, the worker representatives of the PC may carry out the activities related to the interest of the workers, until a trade union is formed in that factory. From the employer's side, usually the chief executive or chief of the division or branch or welfare officer will be the representative of the employer on behalf of the organization. The Bangladesh Labour Rules 2015 sets out the details about the size, election method and other requirements of a PC.
The main function of a PC is to develop a sense of belonging to the establishment among the workers and employers and to make the workers aware of their commitments and responsibilities to the establishment. Some of the other functions of the PC include, trying to promote mutual trust and faith, understanding and co-operation between the employers and the workers, ensuring the application of labour laws in the factory, fostering a sense of discipline and to improve and maintain safety, occupational health and working condition, to encourage vocational training, workers' education and family welfare training, to adopt measures for improvement of welfare services for the workers and their families; and to fulfill production target, increase productivity, reduce production cost, prevent wastage and raise quality of products.
The PC meetings are held once every 2 months to discuss and exchange views and recommend measures for performance of the functions mentioned above. The minutes of every meeting of the PC shall have to be submitted to the Director of Labour and the Arbitrator within 7 days of the date of the meeting. The employer and the trade union shall take necessary steps to implement the specific recommendations of the PC within the period specified by the committee. If for any reason, the employer or the trade union finds difficulties to implement the recommendations within the specified time, they shall inform the committee about it and make all possible efforts to implement the same as early as possible.
Factories that have already established PC in their establishments have all given very positive feedbacks as to the great effectiveness of the same. PC is seen as a mechanism to create mutual trust and faith, co-operation and collaboration between the workers and the owner of a factory. If PC can operate properly, labour disputes can be reduced to a significant extent. It gives an opportunity to address and possibly remedy the concerns of both the employers and the employees at the earliest possible time.
I hope this information has given you a basic understanding of how PC works and how it can help both the workers of a factory and its owner.