Labour courts inadequate
The labour and employment ministry cannot ensure justice to workers countywide due to a severe shortage of labour courts under the ministry, said officials concerned.
The seven existing labour courts established under the labour law remain largely out of workers' reach since these are located at divisional headquarters -- three courts in Dhaka, two in Chittagong and one each in Rajshahi and Khulna.
This means workers in different districts must go to the divisional headquarters to file cases with the labour courts, which is impossible for many, said officials in the labour ministry and labour courts.
Even there is no labour court at three divisional headquarters--Sylhet, Barisal and Rangpur. Workers living in Barisal division are more unfortunate than those working in Rangpur and Sylhet divisions. There are three circuit labour courts in Sylhet, Bogra and Rangpur where the judge from a neighbouring division's labour court sits occasionally to dispose of cases filed by workers.
But there is no such temporary arrangement for workers living in Barisal division.
A worker in Barisal must go to the labour court in Khulna while a worker in Sylhet needs to go to the labour court in Chittagong for seeking justice.
Each labour court is run by only one judge -- district and sessions judge -- who is also head of the court that is tasked with adjudicating and determining industrial disputes.
Besides, there is a labour appellate tribunal which is located in Dhaka with a retired judge of the Supreme Court at its helm. A senior district judge is a member of the appellate tribunal.
In all, nine judges are there to provide justice to workers countrywide.
Talking to The Daily Star recently, Mikail Shipar, secretary to the labour and employment ministry, said the ministry was trying to increase the number of labour courts. "We have sent a proposal to the law ministry for setting up labour courts at least in divisions like Sylhet, Barisal and Rangpur."
The parliamentary standing committee on the labour and employment ministry had earlier reviewed the poor state of labour courts and recommended that the government set up labour courts at district level.
"Workers will get justice if labour courts are set up at district level," Israfil Alam, chief of the parliamentary body, said when contacted.
He noted that it is not possible for a worker in Thakurgaon district to go to Rajshahi labour court for seeking justice. So, many workers accept injustice instead of going to the courts, he added.
Officials in the labour ministry and labour courts said the district and sessions judges, who are posted in labour courts, feel frustrated and do not want to stay there as these courts are neglected.
"The labour courts are treated as dumping grounds. So, judges try to leave those courts as soon as possible," said a senior official, seeking anonymity.
Officials said more than 13,000 cases are pending with the seven labour courts. Of those, around 9,000 are pending with the three labour courts in Dhaka.