Questions over changes to labour law
Most of the amendments to the labour law approved by the cabinet on Monday go against workers, especially in the garment sector, trade union leaders said yesterday.
The amendment, in many cases, does not comply with the standards of the International Labour Organisation, particularly on workers' right to union, they said.
At least 30 percent representation of workers of a factory will be required to form a trade union, said Mojibur Rahman Bhuiyan, general secretary of Bangladesh Mukto Shramik Federation.“Some factories have upwards of 40,000 workers -- it would be almost impossible to assemble that many workers in one place to take their consent on trade union.” Besides, workers within the factory will only be eligible for the position of union leaders, he said.
“These provisions -- all of which prevent formation of union freely -- go against ILO Convention 87,” said Bhuiyan, also the vice-chairman of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, an apex body of labour unions.
Bhuiyan's comments came at a press briefing organised by Sramik Karmochari Oikya Parishad (SKOP) at the JSD office in the city.
Labour leaders said the proposed law has also curtailed the service entitlements of workers.
In the earlier labour law, a worker in a private organisation was eligible, after completion of one year's service, to receive one month's basic salary for each year of service, said Amirul Huq, general secretary of National Garments Workers Federation leader.
But, in the proposed amendment, a worker will get one and a half month's basic salary as gratuity for each year after the completion of 12 years of service, he said.
“This provision will benefit mainly the garment owners, as the worker migration rate is very high in the garment sector,” Bhuiyan said.
“Very few employees work for a garment factory for more than 12 years,” he added.
Labour leaders said the draft amendment also stipulates withdrawal of some existing facilities for workers, like sharing 5 percent of profits. Instead, it now stipulates transferring the money to welfare funds.
They said the provision to bring errant garment owners to book, including jail-term punishment, has also been deleted in the new law.
The labour leaders called for a new clause that would let the court give six months' jail sentence for unscrupulous behaviour on the part of garment owners.
Shirin Akhter, president of Jatiya Shromik Jote-Bangladesh, said the draft labour law has many loopholes, which need to be addressed for the best interests of workers.
The labour leaders also decided to organise a rally in front of the National Press Club on May 31, to voice their displeasure against the proposed amendment.
SKOP represents around 85 percent of the country's workers, with 14 national workers' organisations being its members.