The provision for sharing 5% profit with workers of garment industry was already in the Bangladesh Labour Law 2006. In April, the cabinet approved a proposal for excluding the provision. In place of profit sharing, a new provision for creating a welfare fund for the workers has been incorporated in that proposed amendment. TWorkers' demand for profit sharing is different from the proposed welfare fund.
Trade union right was also in the 2006 Law. With regard to trade union, workers have three demands. First, the workers would not need to send lists of the workers' representatives to the owners to inform them about the trade union leaders. It usually happens that after getting the list, the owner sacks the leader. The government has changed this provision, and the list will now be sent to the government, and they will look after the issue.
Secondly, according to present law, only workers in service can participate in trade union. Therefore, it happens that when a person is elected as representative of a trade union, the owner immediately sacks him and he loses membership. Before 2006, it was in the law that a trade union member can remain member of the union after losing the job or retiring. In 1969, even a person from outside could be a member of a trade union.
Thirdly, the garment industry is relatively new and the workers have little capacity to bargain. So it was a demand that leaders of Jatio Sramik Federations (National Labour Federations) should be allowed to participate in garment trade unions. I do not find any provision in the recent amendment that fulfills the second and third points. These two are crucial for forming a trade union, and are supported by ILO standards.
Next comes the point of new wage structure. This is a well-timed initiative. We have found from our research that, in the present market situation, the minimum wage should be Tk.8,000. For the time being, the government should immediately start giving dearness allowance until the new wage board comes into effect. Closing down factories is not a solution.
Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmmed is Asst. Executive Director, Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies - BILS.