Bangladesh: Government uses excuses and delay tactics to deny workers their rights

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It used delaying tactics and is continuing to put the lives of working people at risk:

  • 35,000 Bangladeshis die at work every year.
  • Eight million are injured.
  • Sexual violence is rife.
  • Millions of workplaces are barely monitored by government labour inspectors.
  • Working people are trapped in jobs with poverty wages.
  • Five workers died after a fire broke out at shoe factory in Dhaka as the government was preparing its report to the ILO.

The ILO Governing Body agreed that the government of Bangladesh should report on progress made in the implementation of the road map in March 2022 and deferred the decision on further action in respect of the Article 26 complaint until November 2022.

An Article 26 complaint is the highest sanction that can be levelled by the ILO against a country for abuse of workers’ rights.

“Every day of delay puts the lives of working people at risk. The road map, if implemented, will put in place a floor of rights for all workers in Bangladesh, but the government must be serious about a timeline to deliver the changes set out by workers and their unions.

“The government of Bangladesh must hold employers to account for unsafe working environments and recognise that unions provide workers with justice and protection of their safety. Unions should be recognised in all sectors of the economy,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary.

The ITUC is calling for:

  • the immediate implementation of a tripartite committee to engage in social dialogue, the basis of modern industrial relations;
  • a new system of alternative dispute resolutions to resolve grievances, an end to the backlog of cases, and rebuilding of trust with workers; and
  • an evidence-based minimum wage for workers in all sectors.

“Social dialogue, functioning grievance and remedy procedures, and an evidence-based minimum wage will give Bangladesh the foundations for an economic recovery from COVID-19 and bring an end to the reliance on exploitative supply chains,” said Sharan Burrow.

The ITUC has identified ten areas of inaction by the Bangladeshi government against which it must report progress in March 2022.

  1. Where tripartite monitoring or consultative committees were to be set up, the conditions precedent for meaningful and productive consultations or effective monitoring were non-existent, including a published schedule of meetings, meeting notices, list of issues and relevant briefing documents.
  2. Occupational health and safety modalities for the export processing zones have not been adopted, and the EPZ authorities still have power over labour inspectors and OSH officers, contrary to ILO Convention 81 and in the face of reports of occupational injuries and deaths.
  3. Labour inspection systems are not adequately resourced, and sufficient personnel have not been recruited.
  4. Independent unions are still denied registration and are discriminated against.
  5. No steps have been taken to address anti-union discrimination, unfair labour practices and violence against workers.
  6. There is no database for complaints of anti-union discrimination, unfair labour practices and attacks against unions.
  7. A long backlog of labour disputes remains, with growing complaints of corruption and injustice against the judiciary.
  8. There is growing intolerance by the security forces for the exercise of trade union rights and activities.
  9. The police and other security forces have not been held accountable for the attacks during the Ashulia demonstrations of 2016 and 2019, and the government has failed to institute an independent inquiry as recommended by the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.
  10. No mechanism has been established to provide regular information to workers on their rights and on how to lodge complaints and access legal support in case of violations.

The ITUC is building public and community support through the campaign for A Better Bangladesh and is monitoring labour rights abuses to seek justice for workers.

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