To expand workers’ protection and uphold their rights, labour experts have proposed a series of recommendations to amend the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 for enhancing workers’ benefits, strengthening trade unions and expediting legal remedies for labour disputes.
They made the recommendations during a stakeholders’ meeting organised by the Solidarity Center at a hotel in Dhaka on Thursday. Advocate Nazrul Islam, also a program officer of Solidarity Center, presented the keynote speech at the event, read a press release.
The panellists proposed amendments for the universal inclusion of all workers, regardless of their employment conditions, under the protective umbrella of the act. The move seeks to address the glaring gap in labour protection that some workers currently face.
In his opening speech, Fred Azcarate, Asia regional program director of Solidarity Center, said, “If we reflect on the core essence of any labor law, it is never about the groups with power and positions. Rather, for the working-class to have the freedom to form unions in a process free of interference from employers facilitated effectively and efficiently by government.”
Recommendations proposed by the panellists are – amendments to never deny dismissed workers their earned service benefits; effective revisions to address unfair labour practices by employers that often lead to the dismissal of workers; necessary steps to reduce the length of labour court proceedings; inclusion of external representatives or advocates nominated by workers’ organisations in committees investigating misconduct complaints; amending the provision regarding worker compensation.
In the place of current requirement of five years’ service, the amendment suggests that workers receive compensation or gratuity equivalent to one month’s basic wages for every full year of service; reversal of the 2022 amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Rules that reduced certain worker benefits; addressing discrimination faced by tea plantation workers regarding leave entitlement; implementation of the High Court directives to prevent sexual harassment and violence at workplace.
The speakers also proposed that in accordance with the ILO Convention 87 and 98, trade unions and collective bargaining rights should be exercised without any hindrance. It will strengthen workers to negotiate for better working conditions and fair wages.
Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies Director Nazma Yesmin said, “The current percentage of workers (20 per cent) required to form a union directly contradicts to ILO C87 and 98.”
Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) Deputy Director (Legal) Advocate Md Borkot Ali and Bangladesh Revolutionary Garment Workers’ Federation president Salauddin Shapon were among the panellists.
The meeting ended with the closing remarks of Solidarity Center Bangladesh Country Program Director AKM Nasim.