Full freedom for trade unionism | The Daily Star
12:50 AM, July 03, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:46 AM, July 03, 2013

Full freedom for trade unionism

Govt moves to amend labour law to win back GSP from US

In a desperate bid to regain a duty waiver from the US, the government has decided to give workers full freedom to run trade unions in factories.
Parliament, amid pressure from the US and the European Union, two main export destinations for Bangladesh, is likely to pass the amended labour law on July 14.
It will be the government's first visible step to regain a trade privilege scheme known as the generalised system of preferences (GSP) that the Obama administration scrapped on June 27, citing “serious shortcomings” in safety and labour standards.
The cabinet approved the proposed labour law on May 13.
Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, minister for expatriates' welfare and overseas employment, said, “The main purpose of the amending the law is to establish a warm relationship between workers and owners through trade unions.”
But the workers must maintain discipline in factories, said Mosharraf, also chairman of a parliamentary sub-committee on labour law reforms.
According to the existing labour law, the names of union leaders must be approved by the management of a factory before the formation of a trade union. This provision will cease to exist if the proposed law gets through the House.
The provision has discouraged workers from setting up trade unions, as the workers fear they will lose their jobs for putting forward the names to the management.
“The amended law will give workers full freedom to run trade unions. They only have to prove that they belong to a particular factory,” said Mosharraf, who is also immediate past labour and employment minister.
He said the US didn't cancel the GSP; it just suspended the facility for a short period. “Bangladesh will regain it, as some immediate steps have been taken to this effect.”
The minister was briefing journalists at his office in the capital after a series of meetings with economists, labour leaders and garment owners.
“We want to make the labour law more worker-friendly. This is why we formed the parliamentary sub-committee, and are still giving inputs into the proposed law,” he said.
The minister said the government would not allow any trade union to act as a non-governmental organisation under the proposed law.
Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar said if the law was passed, the management of a factory would not be able to transfer any executive member of a union to other factories of the same owner in other districts.
Currently, only the chief, general secretary and finance secretary of a trade union cannot be transferred to other factories, he said.
“In the proposed law, workers will be given more opportunity for self-defence in case of appointment, promotion and loss of jobs,” Shipar said.
In an action plan, the US government suggested that Bangladesh bring in reforms to the law to remove key concerns over freedom of association and collective bargaining to regain the GSP to the US market.

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