Labour law amendment bill placed
The government yesterday placed in parliament a bill on amendments to Bangladesh Labour Law. The proposed changes will simplify the rules of forming trade unions and ensure health and safety for workers, it says.
Labour rights activists, however, have been voicing concern since the cabinet approved the changes. They say the changes benefit employers over the interests of workers.
Labour and Employment Minister Rajiudin Ahmed Raju, who placed the bill, said the amendments were necessary to increase facilities of labourers and strengthen relations between owners and workers.
The ruling Awami League in its electoral manifesto had pledged to make the labour law time-befitting to build the nation as dreamt of by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, while the country was facing the challenges of globalisation, the minister said in a brief statement tagged with the copies of the bill.
The bill was sent to the parliamentary standing committee on labour and employment ministry for scrutiny and to place a report in the House.
The proposed amendments will enforce some positive changes. For example, a clause prohibits owners from obstructing or blocking the exit doors at their factories at all times to facilitate a quick exodus of workers in cases of emergency.
The bill also calls for fire drills in factories every six months, instead of a year as the present law stipulates.
On the other hand, labour rights activists have identified some changes that are against the interests of labourers, particularly those working in the garment factories.
They criticised a provision seeking to empower owners to terminate workers for "arson, vandalism and obstruction to work".
Also considered unacceptable was the provision that allows the owners to terminate a worker's contract for leave of absence upwards of 10 days without notice. Under such circumstances, workers are not entitled to any compensation for termination of their contracts, according to the provision.
The existing labour law stipulates that factory owners share 5 percent of their profits with the workers. The amount will be transferred to a welfare fund as per the proposed changes.
The government began the process of amending the Labour Law 2006 after questions arose about the country's continued eligibility for generalised system of preferences for the US market on accounts of its low labour standards and occupational safety.