Do you think that the current mechanism of Bangladesh is adequate in order to protect labor rights-Explain & Illustrate.
Labor rights are a very broad issue; however, it can be boiled down to the protection and respect of human life in the workplace and the right to work itself. Some components of labor rights are the rights to job safety, collective bargaining, and equal-pay-for-equal-work.
Labor rights vary by country; however the International Labor Organization (ILO) provides universal standards and guidelines. The ILO, a part of the UN, aims to provide guidance and standards for labor practices around the world. In most countries however, no such distinction is made. However, there are two broad categories of labor law. First, collective labor law relates to the tripartite relationship between employee, employer and union. Second, individual labor law concerns employees’ rights at work and through the contract for work.
Labor Rights in Bangladesh:
The Government of Bangladesh passed ” Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006? on October 11, 2006 repealing 25 important Labor Laws which includes factories Act, 1965, Shops and Establishments Act, 1965, Employment of Labor (S.O) Act, 1965, Payment of Wages Act, 1936,Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923, Industrial Relations Ordinance, 1969 etc.
The scope of the Labor Act has also been widened to include NGO’s, Hospitals etc. Besides, this new Act has enhanced the powers of the Labor Court as a result of which the Court will now be in a position to issue stay order, injunction and in some cases it can even realize the wages of the workers through sale of employer’s property by auction sale. In short, this new Act has brought about a lot of important changes.
- The Bangladesh Labor Law (amendment) Bill, 2010 passed:
The Bangladesh Labor Law (amendment) Bill, 2010 was passed in the Jatiya Sangsad. Minister for Labor and Employment Engineer Kandahar Mosharraf Hossain proposed for passage of the bill. The main objective of the bill is to remove inconsistency from the retirement age of laborers working in the corporations under different ministries, the minister said. The Public Corporations (Management Co-ordination) Ordinance 1986 stipulated the retirement age of laborers at 60 years while the Bangladesh Labor Law, 2006 fixed at 57 years.
- I. Labor law in Bangladesh is not in conformity with Bangladesh’s international obligations with regard to freedom of association and the right to organize:
Several international bodies and organizations have expressed grave concern regarding the dismal state of workers’ rights in Bangladesh. USAID describes the situation as follows, “Labor rights are commonly ignored by the private sector, particularly for the most vulnerable workers such as women and children.” The US State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report on Bangladesh further stated, “Because of high unemployment rates and inadequate enforcement of laws, workers demanding redress of dangerous working conditions or who refused to work under hazardous conditions risked losing their jobs.” The International Labor Organization, (ILO) estimates that every year in Bangladesh, “11,700 workers suffer fatal accidents and a further 24,500 die from work related diseases across all sectors.”
The ILO has repeatedly examined labor conditions in Bangladesh. The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) has commented on multiple violations of ILO Convention 87, Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, (1948) and Convention 98, Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention. The Committee found “serious discrepancies between the national legislation and the Convention .”
The Committee noted: “…the adoption of the Bangladesh Labor Act 2006 (the Labor Act), which replaced the Industrial Relations Ordinance of 1969, and noted with deep regret that the Labor Act did not contain any improvements in relation to the previous legislation and, in certain regards, contained even further restrictions…” The CEACR highlighted instances where domestic legislation in Bangladesh is in direct
Violation of internationally recognized labor standards, including the restriction of specific workers from joining or forming unions, those which act in a supervisory capacity named ‘confidential’ workers, overreaching exclusion of “essential workers” from those able to unionize, and several unwarranted restrictions on the right to strike.
On June 3, 2010, the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity (BCWS) was stripped of its legal NGO status. Since the early 1990s, the BCWS has maintained a longstanding tradition of advancing workers’ rights by documenting labor abuses and conducting educational outreach on labor rights. BCWS has gained international support for projects educating women of their workplace rights in order to tackle endemic gender discrimination with financing from USAID and the British Government’s Department for International Development.
- II. Labor standards in Bangladesh:
Bangladesh has ratified seven of the eight ILO core labor conventions on freedom of association and the right to organize and collective bargaining, discrimination and equal remuneration, child labor and forced labor. It has not ratified ILO Convention No. 138 (1973), Minimum Age. In view of serious violations of core labor standards in all the above areas, determined measures are needed to comply with the commitments Bangladesh accepted at Singapore, Geneva and Doha in the WTO Ministerial Declarations over 1996-2001 and in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The right to form and join unions is not respected in practice, despite numerous ILO criticisms. They work as domestic servants and in sectors such as leather or brick breaking industries. Penalties against this practice are negligible. The national law in Bangladesh bans forced labor. However, the enforcement of these laws is poor. Forced labor has apparently disappeared in large scale companies but not in other parts of the country.
International Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work adopted by the 174 member countries of the ILO at the International Labor Conference in June 1998. Bangladesh was a founding member of the WTO the 1st of January 1995, and thus became subject to the legal framework of this international body. The ICFTU has five affiliates in Bangladesh, the “Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress”, the “Bangladesh Jatyatabadi Sramik Dal”, the “Bangladesh Labor Federation”, the “Bangladesh Mukto Sramik Federation”, and the “Jation Sramik League”. These five organizations are all organized together in the ICFTU Bangladesh Council.
III. Discrimination and Equal Remuneration
Bangladesh ratified ILO Convention No. 111 (1958), Discrimination
(Employment and Occupation) in 1972 and ILO Convention No. 100 (1951), Equal Remuneration in 1998. Laws specifically prohibit certain forms of discrimination against women and provide for special procedures for persons accused of violence against women and children; however, enforcement of these laws is weak. Women remain in a subordinate position in society, and the government does not act effectively to protect their basic rights.
IV. Child Labor:
Bangladesh has not ratified ILO Convention No. 138 (1973), the Minimum
Age Convention and did ratify No.182 (1999), the Worst Form of Child Labor, recently, the 12th of March 2001. Primary education is free and compulsory, but the implementation of compulsory education falls short in part because parents keep children out of school, preferring instead to have them working for money or helping with household chores. Under the law, children between ages 6 and 10 must attend school up to the fifth grade or the age of 10 years. However, there is no effective mechanism to enforce this provision.
- V. Forced Labor:
Bangladesh ratified, in 1972, both ILO Convention No. 29 (1930), the Forced Labor Convention and ILO Convention No. 105 (1957), the Abolition of Forced Labor Convention. The law prohibits forced or bonded labor, including by children, and the Factories Act and Shops and Establishments Act provide for inspection mechanisms to strengthen laws against forced labor. However, the government has not enforced these laws adequately.
My Point of view regarding to Labor laws and rights in Bangladesh:
- The existing law does not include the issues of agriculture and domestic workers.
- Moreover, the issues of women workers’ safety and sexual harassment must be looked into seriously.
- The noted human rights activist also demanded inclusion of a provision in the labor law so that public interest litigations can be pursued in favor of workers.
- The existing labor and industrial laws are in favor of the employers while not in favor of the workers in Bangladesh. In this country, the existing laws regarding laborers are primitive in nature.
- Lack of a proper execution system of the laws is the main cause in the ignorance of labor rights.
- Labor rights in Bangladesh are not justifiable under the existing labor laws and lack of proper execution system of those existing laws is the main course for not ensuring labor rights.
Labor rights through Trade union in Bangladesh:
“Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” -Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23, Section 4.
The ability to form a trade union by the labor is a constitutional right according to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh under the ‘right to association’ in Article 38. In Chapter 13 of the Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006 different provisions have been incorporated from section 175 to 208 relating to trade union, registration of trade unions, rights of the president of trade union, unfair labor practice, CBA, etc.
* A healthy democracy should be established in our country so that the labor can enjoy their fundamental rights to form any trade union.
* The law relating to trade union should be amended with provisions concerning the empowerment and welfare of the general labor.
* The politics of the trade union leaders should be forbidden for certain period by amending the Constitution.
* The labor should be given a fair chance and should be given proper knowledge about their rights and fighting corruption related matters.
* The trade union leaders’ corruption should be dealt with seriously.
* A special provision should be added in the Act for the penalty of the inspectors if they are convicted for the bribery from the industry owners.
* Corruption in registration of trade unions should be prevented by making the whole process of registration as a transparent one and by mentioning the powers and functions of the Registrar.
* The leadership of trade unions should be given to qualified, experienced, dedicated and committed leaders who are more likely to work for the labor as opposed to their own gain.
* Finally all the leaders and owners should change the wicked mentality.
Despite the fact that Bangladesh has ratified ILO Conventions 87 and 98 and that the constitution and national law provide for the right to join unions, these rights are not respected in practice. Bangladesh still requires a quorum of support of 30 per cent of workers to create a trade union, an obligation that has been systematically denounced by the ILO. The recommendations of this international body to amend the law have been ignored. Some professions are still prevented from joining unions, such as managerial and administrative employees and teachers.. The government is entitled to ban any strike which lasts more than 30 days. Export processing zones in the country fall under a special labor legislation whereby basic rights are not permitted. Workers in these areas are excluded from organizing and bargaining collectively. Recent attempts at changing the law to permit freedom of association rights in the export processing zones have been inadequate.
So, it is an important task of the civil society members, NGOs and the government to ensure the laborers’ rights to better life.
- Bangladesh Institute for Labor Studies, various reports.
- Campaign for Popular Education, various reports.
- ICFTU, Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights, 2006 and previous editions.
- ILO legal and data base resources: ILOLEX, NATLEX.
- ILO, Reports of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and
- Recommendations, 2006 and previous editions.
- US Department of State, Report on Human Rights Practices, 2006
- World Bank databases.
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2 U.S. Department of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Bangladesh, March 11, 2010 available at:
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/sca/136085.htm (accessed July 20, 2010).
3 ILO, Bangladesh Decent Work Country Programme, available at: http://www.oit.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—asia/—robangkok/—
ilo-dhaka/documents/publication/wcms_106634.pdf (accessed July 29, 2010).
November 2009, available at: https://webdev.ilo.org/global/What_we_do/InternationalLabourStandards/WhatsNew/lang–
en/docName–WCMS_117772/index.htm (accessed July 29, 2010).
 “The law prohibits discrimination, but the government did not strongly enforce laws aimed at eliminating discrimination. Women, children, minority groups, and persons with disabilities” 2009 Human Rights Report: Bangladesh, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor March 11, 2010 available at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/sca/136085.htm (accessed July 29, 2010) Of note: The ILRF funded BCWS project to developed a leadership Skills Training program for women garment workers.
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