Labor Laws in Bangladesh & Present Condition of Working Class People in Our Country
Labor Law regulates matters, such as, labor employment, remunerations, and conditions of work, trade unions, and labor management relations. They also include social laws regulating such aspects as compensation for accident caused to a worker at work, fixation of minimum wages, maternity benefits, sharing of the company’s profit by the workers, and so on. Most of these legal instruments regulate rights and responsibilities of the working people.
With the growth and expansion of factories and industries in the subcontinent beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, new avenues for employment were created, resulting in a gradual migration of the labor force from rural areas to mills and factories located primarily in urban areas. At that time, in the absence of any state control or organization of the workers, the employers were less concerned about the needs of their employees; the work hours were too long, wages much below the subsistence level, and the workers’ employment conditions were unsatisfactory. The situation led to the enactment of a number of legislations beginning from the year 1881. These include, inter alia-
· The Factories Act (1881,1965)
· Workmen’s Compensation Act (1923),
· Trade Unions Act (1926),
· Trade Disputes Act (1929),
· Payment of Wages Act (1936),
· Maternity Benefit Act (1939), and
· The Employment of Children Act (1938).
After 1947, the government in Pakistan decided to keep in force most of the pre-partition laws with some modifications and amendments thereof, in the form of administrative rules, to meet the changing needs. Almost the same governmental decision to allow most of these laws to remain in force were taken in liberated Bangladesh in pursuance of the Adaptation of Bangladesh Laws Order (President’s Order No. 48) issued in early 1972. Following is a brief description of the acts, ordinances, rules and regulations that comprise the labor and industrial legislation of Bangladesh.
The Factories Act 1881 is the basis of all labor and industrial laws of the country. It contained provisions even for hours of work of women and workers including that of minimum age for employment of children. After the International Labor Organization (ILO) was formed in 1919, this Act was amended and thereafter repealed, resulting in the promulgation of the Factories Act 1934, which remained in force till 1965, when the Factories Act 1965 was promulgated incorporating some provisions of the ILO conventions.
Factories Act 1965 adopted with the objective of regulating the appointment of workers, their wages and the working conditions in factories, including health and hygiene, safety, welfare, working hours, leave and holidays, and punishments and penalties for both the owners and workers for non-compliance of the requirements. East Pakistan Factories Act 1965 was published in the Dhaka Gazette Extraordinary in September 1965. The government of Bangladesh adopted the Act and declared it enforceable throughout the country. It has 11 chapters and 116 main sections.
The Act defines and clarifies various terms included in it. Important among such terms are: adolescent, adult, child, day, explosive substance, factory, machinery, manufacturing process, occupier, prime mover, shift in factory, transmission machinery, working hour, and wages. It describes the power of the government relating to declaration of departments as separate factories, notification by the chief inspector before commencement of work, and declaration of any factory as seasonal (depending upon the number of working days in a year or in a particular season). It incorporates the provisions for obtaining approval of factory plans, including the construction or extension, class or description of factories from the chief inspector. It also specifies the fees for licensing and registration.
The Act incorporates rules for appointing the chief inspector, inspectors and certifying surgeons by the government for overseeing the purposes of the Act and certifying the fitness of workers. According to the Act, every factory is to be maintained clean and free from effluvia arising from any drain, privy or other nuisance. Effective arrangements are to be made in every factory for the disposal of wastes and effluents, prevention of accumulation of dust and fume, and proper ventilation and maintenance of room temperature.
The Act requires that factory must ensure adequate fire safety measures, appropriate means of escaping in case of fire, and protection against dangerous and accident-prone parts of machinery, electric and mechanical devices, self-acting machines, etc. Workers are to be given proper training before they are employed on dangerous machines. Controlling appliances of cranes and other lifting machines, hoists and lifts must be of good construction, sound material and adequate strength. Other sources of dangers, such as pits, sumps, openings in floors, etc, should be securely covered or fenced and effective screens or suitable goggles should be provided to workers to protect their eyes. Every factory is to have adequate and suitable facilities for washing and bathing and provide first-aid medicines and appliances. Canteens and rooms for children should also be maintained. In every factory wherein five hundred or more workers are employed, the occupier should employ a number of welfare officers as may be prescribed.
Under the Act no adult worker shall be allowed to work in a factory for more than forty-eight hours in a week or on weekly holidays unless stated otherwise. Workers may, however, be put to work on off days, but only with the provision for an equal number of compensatory holidays. Other rules regarding working hours of adults relate to daily working hours, interval for rest or meals, spread over, night shifts and prohibition of overlapping shifts, extra allowances for overtime, restriction on double employment, notice of periods of work, and registration of adult workers. The Act prohibits employment of any child under the age of 14 in any factory. An adolescent may be employed only after granting a certificate of fitness issued by a certifying surgeon. Working hours for such young persons, if employed, shall not be more than five hours a day. They shall not be allowed to work between 7 pm and 7 am. In every factory, a notice of the periods of work for children shall be displayed and a register maintained. The inspector of factories is empowered to order the medical examination of a child worker if required.
Under different circumstances and conditions laid down in various sections of the Act, workers are entitled to have certain days as annual leave with wages, festival holidays, and casual and sick leave. However, the workers may be allowed some leave without pay. The government is empowered to make rules regarding leave and holidays for factory workers. The Act has provisions regarding dangerous operations in any factory, notices of certain accidents, dangerous occurrences and certain diseases. Penalties for employers indicated in the Act include general penalty for offences, such as obstructing inspectors, wrongful disclosure of information or disclosure of restricted information, and employment of child workers.
The Factories Act has provisions for making appeal by parties concerned in factories, such as owner/occupiers, managers, inspectors and workers. The government can formulate rules for factories for the submission of returns to regulatory authorities. Workers are prohibited to interfere in any affairs of the factory, which may cause loss or damage to the factory itself or to other workers. The Act also made a provision for repeal and it declared that notwithstanding the repeal, any order or notification issued, any action taken, any proceeding commenced or anything done under any provision of the Act shall continue in force.
The Act of 1965 applies to manufacturing establishments employing ten or more persons with or without the aid of any mechanical power. It makes provision for safety, health and hygiene of the workers and special provision for women and juvenile workers. It also prohibits child labor. It limits work of a child in factories, including the seasonal ones. For extra work by a worker beyond normal hours, payment is to be made at double the ordinary wage. The periods of adult workers shall be so fixed that either no worker shall work for more than six hours continuously before he has had an interval (for rest) of at least one hour, or for more than five hours without a rest interval of at least half an hour or for more. The periods of work along with rest interval shall spread over more than ten and a half hours in perennial factories and eleven and a half hours in seasonal factories. One weekly holiday is to be granted to all workers. The act also provides for leaves and holidays.
The workers to whom the Factories Act of 1965 does not apply are covered by the Shops and Establishment Act 1965. It also makes provision for cleanliness, fixes working hours, extra payment for overtime work, and special provision for women and juvenile workers. Children workers under the age of 12 cannot be employed under this Act. More specifically, under this Act the working hours in shops or commercial or industrial establishments or establishments for public entertainment/amusement are limited to nine per day and fifty one per week. Overtime work up to one hundred and twenty hours in a year is permissible which is to be paid for at double the ordinary rates. No worker is to work for more than five hours in a day without a rest interval. The Act provides for one and a half-holiday with pay each week.
The Mines Act 1923:
Under the Mines Act 1923 which applies to workers employed in mines, the hours of work for persons employed on surface are limited to ten per day and fifty four per week. The periods of work including rest interval shall not spread over more than 12 hours in any day. For workers employed underground, the daily limit is nine hours per day. The Act does not contain provisions as to overtime work. No worker is to work in a mine for more than six days a week. The Act does not provide for wages for the weekly rest day.
The Motor Vehicles Ordinance of 1983:
Under the Motor Vehicles Ordinance of 1983, the hours of work of drivers of motor vehicle are limited to fifty-four hours a week and nine hours a day. Exceptions may be granted in certain cases. A rest interval of at least half-an-hour is prescribed for five hours of work. Further conditions of service for workers employed in road transport service are included in the Road Transport Ordinance, 1961, supplemented by those in the Road Transport Rules, 1962. It contains provision for age limit of workers, hours of work and rest, leave and other service conditions. Under this Ordinance no person, other than a driver, can be employed in any road transport service unless he has attained the age of eighteen years, and in the case of a driver minimum age has been fixed at twenty-one years. The Merchant Shipping Ordinance, 1983 and Inland Water Transport (Control of Employment) Act, 1992 contain provisions for service conditions of the workers engaged in water transport services.
The Railways Act of 1890:
Under chapter VIA of the Railways Act of 1890, the railway workers are classified into two categories, continuous, and essentially intermittent. The workers of the former category may be employed for up to eight hours a day and are granted with pay each week a rest of not less than twenty-four consecutive hours. Payment for overtime is 125% of the ordinary rates.
For air transport workers, there are no special laws. Their services are guided by the provisions of the Employment of Labor (Standing Orders) Act, 1965 and in accordance with service rules framed there under.
The Weekly Holidays Act of 1942 prescribes one paid holiday a week for persons employed in any shop, restaurant or theatre (excepting those employed in a confidential capacity or in a position of management). The government is empowered to grant additional half-day holiday with pay in a week. Under the Factories Act, 1965 workers employed in factories are entitled after one year of service to ten consecutive paid holidays in the case of adults and fourteen in the case of children. Workers in mines are not entitled to annual holidays.
Plantation workers are given least annual leave. An adult worker earns one day leave for every 30 days of work performed. Young people earn one day’s leave for every 20-day work. Plantation workers are entitled to only 5 festival holidays in a year. They get sick leave of 15 days with half-average pay. No casual leave with wages is granted to them. Road transport workers are entitled to one day annual leave for 22 days of work. They are entitled to 10 days casual leave and 14 days sick leave. No provision for festival leave is there in the Road Transport Workers Ordinance of 1961.
Workers employed in the newspapers enjoy enough leave facilities. They earn leave on full wages not less than one-eleventh of the period spent on duty and medical leave on half wages for not less than one-eighth of the period of service, and ten days casual leave with wages.
Entitlement of annual leave with pay under the Shops and Establishment Act of 1965 is in the case of an adult, one day for every 18-day of work, and in the case of a young person, one day for every 14-day of work actually performed by him during the previous period of twelve months. It further provides for 10 days casual leave and 14 days sick leave with full pay in a year.
TheIndustrial Relations Ordinance of 1969, including the Industrial Relations Rules of 1977 framed there under, provides for formation of trade unions and regulation of relations between employers and workers. At the time of the promulgation of this Ordinance, there were three separate laws regulating the relations between employees and employers, namely the East Pakistan Trade Union Act of 1965 which provided for the formation and functioning of trade unions, the East Pakistan Labor Disputes Act of 1965 which provided for investigation and settlement of labor disputes, and the East Pakistan Employment of Labor (Standing Orders) Act of 1965 to regulate the conditions of service of workers employed in shops, commercial and industrial establishments.
The first two of the above acts were repealed by the Ordinance of 1969. This Ordinance provides for various ways of settlement of industrial disputes which have been defined in the Act of 1965. Since public interest is involved in settlement of industrial dispute, adjudication as such through labor courts bears much importance. The labor courts play an important role for maintenance of industrial peace through settlement of issues on labor management problems, and hence they enjoy the confidence of both the employers and the workers.
The Employment of Labor (Standing Orders) Act, 1965 provided for a grievance procedure for redress of individual grievance of any particular worker in respect of their employment or conditions of work or infringement thereof. This widened the scope of the Labor Court and its jurisdiction to look into the grievances of individual workers in respect of their rights arising out of any matter covered by the said Act. This covers cases of illegal dismissal, discharge, lay off, retrenchment or termination of service by victimization for trade union activities or infringement of their rights covered by the said Act, and the Court as such was vested with jurisdiction to provide effective remedy to the workers for any wrong done to them by the employer.
The Industrial Relations Ordinance, 1969 envisaged constitution of labor courts with a chairman and two members to advise him, one to represent the employers and the other to the workers. The labor court acts as civil court as well as criminal court and tries offences punishable under labor laws. The Industrial Relations Ordinance of 1969 also provided for establishment of a Labor Appellate Tribunal for entertaining appeals against awards of labor courts on industrial disputes.
Legislation concerning long-term policy as a means of fostering economic stability and growth is relatively a new concept in labor law. There was almost no legislative regulation on the terms and conditions of employment of workers employed in shop, industrial or commercial establishment. The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 came into operation for the first time requiring employers in industrial establishments employing 100 or more workmen to define the terms of employment of workmen in the form of standing orders which should be in general conformity with the model standing orders incorporated in the Act. The Merchant Shipping Act, 1923 provided for an agreement between a seaman and the master of the ship regarding terms of service. The Act was replaced by the Merchant Shipping Ordinance, 1983. In 1960, the Industrial and Commercial Employment (Standing Orders) Ordinance, 1960 came into force replacing the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. This law also was replaced in 1965 by the Employment of Labor (Standing Orders) Act, 1965 which provides for defining and determining conditions of service of workers, workers’ and employees’ rights vis-a-vis the employer’s rights. Under this Act misconduct of workers is defined, and the employer has a right to lie off, dismiss, discharge, retrench or terminate the services of workers. Employers can close down the establishment in certain contingencies. The workers’ remedy against illegal dismissal or cessation of employment, grievance procedure against any action of the employer is provided for in the Act.
The government of India set up an enquiry committee in 1926 to ascertain the loophole for irregularity of payment of wages to industrial workers. The Royal Commission on Labor appointed in 1929 considered the reports and suggestions of the aforesaid enquiry committee and recommended for enactment for prevention of maladies relating to payment of wages resulting in the promulgation of the Payment of Wages Act in 1936. It aimed, firstly, at disbursement of actual distributable wages to workers within the prescribed period and, secondly, to ensure that the employees get their full wages without any deduction. The Act was passed to regulate the payment of wages to certain classes of persons employed in industry. The object of the Act obviously was to provide a cheap and speedy remedy for employees to whom the Act applied inter alia, to recover wages due to them, and for that purpose, a special tribunal was subsequently created, but due to some inherent defects in the statute the recovery of decree able wages remained difficult.
The Payment of Wages Act, 1936 remained in force during the Pakistan regime and thereafter in liberated Bangladesh. A major amendment was however made in the Act in 1980 vide the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Act, 1980 (Act No. XXVI of 1980). The Act as amended has been made applicable upon employed persons, irrespective of quantum of wages, and the cases under the Act have been made triable by the chairmen of the labor courts, and provision for appeals has been made to the Labor Appellate Tribunal instead of the High Court Division. The paymasters have been made liable for prosecution on complaint of the aggrieved person.
For fixation of minimum wages, in cases where there is no system of collective bargaining, a board called the Minimum Wages Board was established under the Minimum Wages Ordinance, 1961. This Board declares minimum wages of workers for specified number of industries, but it cannot declare any national minimum wages. In almost all the cases wages are fixed by collective agreements. Under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance of 1983 wages of a seaman are to be fixed by agreement with the seamen.
Statutory provisions exist for only two contingencies, i.e. employment-related injuries and childbirth. The liability in both cases is entirely that of the employer. The Workmen’s Compensation taka 400 per month, including all railway and other categories of workers specified in the Act, i.e. workers engaged in factories, mines, plantations, loading or unloading, construction or repairs to mechanically propelled vehicles. The bar in amount of wages was removed by an amendment made in 1980 to the Act. The Act of 1923 also contains a list of occupational disease in respect of which compensation is payable.
The Employer’s Liability Act, 1938 declares that the doctrine of common employment and of assumed risk shall not be raised as a defense in suits for damages in respect of employment injuries. Under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1939, the Maternity Benefit (Tea Estate) Act, 1950, the Mines Maternity Benefit Act, 1941, and finally the rules framed there under, female employees are entitled to various benefits for maternity, but in practice they enjoy leave of 6 weeks before and 6 weeks after delivery.
The workers’ entitlement in the company’s profit at certain rate was made compulsory by enacting the Companies Profit Workers’ Participation Act, 1968. Those companies which employ 100 workers or each of which has a paid-up capital of five million or which has the value of fixed assets exceeding 10 million (Irrespective of his/her designation and functions, who draws salary less than taka 9000 per month is deemed a worker under the Act) are covered by this Act. Under the provision of this Act, as amended in 1985, two funds, namely the Participation Fund and the Welfare Fund, have been created with the company’s contribution for the welfare of the workers.
The Factories Act of 1965 prohibits the employment of women for cleaning or oiling any part of moving machinery and in factories where a cotton opener is at work. Necessary rules have also been framed by the government restricting the employment of women in operations which expose them to severe risk of bodily injury, poisoning or disease. The Mines Act, 1923 authorizes the government to make regulations prohibiting, restricting or regulating the employment of women in mines either below ground or in activities which are attended by danger to the life, safety or health of women.
The Children (Pledging of Labor) Act, 1933 declares void an agreement to pledge the labor of a child below 15 years. The parent or guardian of the child and the employer making the agreement are both guilty under the Act. An agreement to pledge the labor of child means an agreement, written or oral, express or implied, whereby the parent or guardian of a child, in return for any payment or benefit received or to be received by him, undertakes to cause or allow the services of a child to be utilized in any employment.
The provisions regarding hours of work in the Factories Act 1965 apply to workers of both sexes. The daily limit of nine hours in the case of women is subject to the restriction that no exemption regarding hours of work for women workers in the Mines Act, 1923, which are limited to ten per day and fifty-four per week for surface workers and nine per day for underground workers. The employment of women underground, however, continues to be prohibited by regulations framed under the Act. The Factories Act however stipulates that no women should be allowed to work in a factory except between 6 am and 7 pm. The government is empowered in respect of any class or classes of factories to vary these limits to any span of 13 hours between 5 am and 7-30 pm. Under the Mines Act, 1923 women are prohibited to work in a mine either below or above ground between the hours of 7 pm and 6 am. Under the Factories Act, 1965 there is provision for crèches in any factory employing more than 50 women workers, a suitable room reserved for the use of children under the age of six belonging to women workers. The Mines Act, 1923 and Mines Crèche Rule, 1946 also provide for the maintenance of crèches in mines wherein women are ordinarily employed.
The Factories Act of 1965 fixes the minimum age of children as 12 years for employment in factories. No child is allowed to work in a factory unless he is certified physically fit, and children between 16 and 18 years of age not certified fit as such, are treated as children under the provisions of the Act. The Employment of Children Act 1938 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 15 in any occupation connected with transport of passengers, goods or mails by railway or involving the handling of goods within the limits of any port. It further prohibits the employment of children below 12 years in any workshop wherein the process of bidi making, carpet weaving, cement manufacture, cloth printing manufacture of matches and explosives, mica-cutting and displitting are carried on.
Under the Mines Act 1923, child below 15 years is allowed to work in mines either on surface or below ground. The employment of children between 15 and 17 years underground is dependent on their being declared medically fit. Persons below 17 years shall be employed in such manner that they get a rest interval of 12 consecutive hours out of which 7 hours shall fall between 7 pm and 7 am.
For employment in shops and commercial establishments, the Shops and Establishment Act of 1965 provides that no person below the age of 12 years is to be employed in a shop or establishment covered by this Act. For employment at sea the minimum age fixed under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1983 is 14 years. A young person between fourteen and eighteen years of age can only be carried to sea in any capacity if declared medically fit. Under the Factories Act of 1965 the employment of children less than 15 years of age is prohibited for cleaning or oiling any moving part of the factory. The government is further empowered to make rules prohibiting or restricting the workers for work which has the risk of serious bodily injury, poisoning or disease. Persons below 18 years of age may not be employed as stokers or trimmers, except in coastal ships where they may be employed if above 16 years of age.
Many workers employed in the EPZ enterprises are not within the jurisdiction of labor laws. The Export Processing Zones Authority Act of 1980 empowers the government to bar application of some laws these zones. Since the Employment of Labor (Standing Orders) Act is inoperative in EPZs, the authority created under the Act has promulgated two instructions on service conditions and pay of the workers. These, however, are not enforceable in any court of law.
The labor laws in this country have been enacted at different times to meet the problems of the day, seemingly without taking into consideration the contents of the existing laws, and in most of the cases relationship with other laws was not taken into consideration, which consequently led to anomalies and contradictions with one another. In 1992, with a view to revising and codifying the different labor and industrial laws in a code, a 35-member National Labor Law Commission was set up. The Commission submitted a draft of a single code to the government in 1995, but no comprehensive law on the recommendation has been passed as yet.
Inadequacy of Labor Law
The object of Labor laws is no doubt to maintain industrial peace and to meet the surge of problems in employment and to protect the rights of workmen. But due to various defects and loopholes in the labor laws the workers in our country are indiscriminately victimized and are deprived of their legal rights.
The causes of sufferings of the workers are, however, multifarious. Since in this section we intend to deal with the defects of labor Laws, let us confine to the relevant topic.
Our labor code, though contains a corpus of labor legislation, is not adequate to meet the modem problems especially in the present socio-economic condition.
Scope and applicability of the Employment of labor (Standing Orders) Act and Industrial Relations Ordinance:
These two laws are the main labor legislation dealing with the conditions of service of workers and the trade union affairs respectively. The scope of these acts is very narrow. The Employment of labor (standing Orders) Act, 1965 has no application in case of shops, commercial or industrial establishments set up by cooperative societies or registered under the Cooperative Societies Act and to the establishments set up by or directly managed by the Government where the Government Servant Conduct Rules apply. The wordings in section I of the Industrial Relations Ordinance, 1969 relating to the scope and applicability of the Ordinance are not clear and as a result many trade unions which are not eligible for getting a registration, a~ given the same by the Registrar of Trade Unions leading to unjustified proceedings and actions.
Non-fixation of age of retirement:
Industrial workers in our country do not retire on the ground of superannuation. Provisions for retirement fixing an age limit. For the same and payment of gratuity or other benefit need be made.
Retrenchment-labor Court’s Power to adjudicate:
Workers often complain that they have been victimized in the garb of retrenchment or discharge for their trade union activities. Under the labor laws it is enough for the employers to pay some monetary benefit of compensation to the workers for retrenchment. The Labor Court is not vested with the power to scrutinize the root cause of the same. Provision is required to be made In the Employment of labor (standing orders) Act empowering the Labor Court to see the legality or otherwise of the order of retrenchment.
Loss of Lien of Workers:
There is a provision In section 5 (3) of the Employment of Labor (standing orders) Act, 1965 that a worker will lose his lien to his appointment on his failure to return within 10 days of expiry of his leave. This is redundant. When there is provision in section 17 of the Act that absence without I leave for more than 10 days is a misconduct and a worker In such case may be dismissed or otherwise dealt with and a dismissed worker gets some compensation for past service and a proceeding is to be drawn up, it does not stand to reason that If there was such absence after leave was once taken, there should be automatic termination of service.
Procedure for Enquiry in case of misconduct:
Section 18 of the Employment of Labor (standing orders) Act provides for the procedure for punishment wherein it is provided that “No order for discharge or dismissal of a worker shall be made unless-
(a) The allegations against him are recorded in writing;
(b) He is given a copy thereof and not less than three day’s time to explain;
(c) He is given personal hearing if such a prayer is made;
d) The employer or the manager approves such orders
In the said section unlike other laws the procedure for enquiry has not been stated. The superior Courts have, however, in different decisions barred dismissal without enquiry or affording the worker concerned with’ opportunity of self-defense. In the Government Servants’ Discipline and Appeal Rules the procedure for enquiry in cases calling for major penalties & minor penalties have been laid down. In the absence of any such express provision no proper and fair enquiry can be expected from an employer.
Termination of Service of Workers:
A worker, whatever is his length of service, may be terminated by his employer at any time without any reason whatsoever on service of notice for a certain period or payment In lieu thereof and payment of compensation @ 30 day’s wages for every completed year of service. This is Inhuman and against the human rights. When there is provision for dismissal in case of commission of any offence or misconduct, the provision for termination depending on the liking or disliking of an employer is not desirable.
Provision for Closing down of Establishments:
In section 6 of the Employment of Labor standing orders Act the wordings relating to stoppage of work are ambiguous and misleading; these need be explained In simple manner, Further provision In this section for permanently closing down of shops, commercial and industrial establishment may be made with permission from the labor Court or other appropriate authority and payment of adequate service benefit to the workers.
Restriction in number of Trade Unions:
Under the present statute i.e. the Industrial Relations’ Ordinance, 1969 maximum three trade unions can be formed and function in any particular establishment. But In actual practice, the case is otherwise. There are more than three trades unions in many establishments. In view of the poor economic condition of our country particularly for keeping industrial peace only one registered union in a particular establishment is sufficient for minimizing the trouble and expenditure in the matter of determination of the collective bargaining agent.
Rights of Workers/Unions to be specified: Section 34 of the Industrial Relations ordinance, 1969 is the only enabling section for filing an application by a worker or employer or collective bargaining agent for enforcement of his or its rights guaranteed or secured under any law, settlement or award. Rights and Privileges of a trade union have not been clearly mentioned anywhere in the Ordinance. There is misunderstanding about the rights, privileges or obligations of the trade unions or employers and workmen. The rights, privileges and obligations should clearly be expressed.
Constitution of Labor Court: A Labor Court in our country consists of a Chairman appointed by the Government and two Members to be appointed in the prescribed manner to advise the Chairman one to represent the employer and other to represent the workman. A labor court cannot function in absence of any member. Resultantly the court cannot sit and the cases fixed for hearing are adjourned. As a result justice is delayed. Since the opinion of the members is not binding upon the Chairman, Labor Courts may be allowed to function without the members and the membership system needs to be abolished:
Time for submission of Grievance Notice: Since most of our workers are illiterate the 15 day’s time for submission of grievance notice after his dismissal, discharge or termination is insufficient. The time for submission of grievance notice should be extended up to three months like the provision of the Government servants discipline and Appeal rules.
Compensation/Benefit In case of Resignation: If the services of a worker are terminated by his employer he gets compensation @ thirty days wages for every completed year of service. So is the case with retrenchment and discharge. Even if a worker is dismissed for misconduct, he gets compensation @14 day’s wages for each completed year of service. But if a worker resigns from his service he gets nothing. Provision for compensation/benefit should be made in case of resignation by a worker.
Right of Appeal: Ail decisions of a Labor Court other than awards and sentence are final and no appeal lies before· any auth6rity against the same. Our labor Courts can give awards only in industrial dispute cases referred for adjudication (the number may not be more than 1% of the total cases). As there is no provision for preferring any appeal against the judgments and decisions of the Labor Court, both workers and employers in a good number of cases are deprived of fair justice. .
Quantum of compensation In case of Accident: The quantum of compensation for death and disablement due to accident is Inadequate. The amount of compensation in case of death and permanent total disablement is shown in the table below:
|Amount of Wages||Compensation in case of Death||Compensation in case of Permanent Total Disablement|
|0 to 100||8000||10000|
|101 to 200||12000||16000|
|201 to 300||14000||19000|
|301 to 400||16000||21000|
|401 to 500||18000||26000|
|501 to Above||21000||30000|
Want of complete Code: There are as many as 47 Acts. Ordinances, Rules etc. on LaborLaw In our country. Some of the important laws are
(i) ‘the Workmen’sCompensation Act, 1923,
(ii) The Payment of Wages Act, 1936,
(iii) The Employers Liability Act, 1938,
(iv) The Maternity Benefit Act, 1939.
(v) The Employment of Labor (Standing Orders) Act, 1965,
(vi) The Factories Act, 1965
(vii) The Shops and Establishment Act, 1965
(viii) The Industrial Relations Ordinance, 1969,
(ix) The Minimum wages Ordinance, 1961 etc.
Although all these Acts and Ordinances· have been enacted in order to Safeguard the Interest of the workers and to remove the causes of genuine discontent, yet these ‘have been proved to be Inadequate and sometimes Ineffective In order to create better working environment. It is needless to mention here that these laws have been promulgated in different times from the British Regime to date. The then British Government, Central Government of’ Pakistan, Provincial Government of East Pakistan, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh did enact Labor Laws, of course, to fit the times. The past enactments were continued to remain in force during the post liberation period. Later on New Labor policies were declared and new laws were passed in addition to the existing laws.
All these enactments were done hastily and isolated to meet the exigencies thereby creating anomalies or even contradiction amongst the provision of different laws. e
The employment of workers and other matters Incidental thereto is to be regulated in accordance with the provision of the Employment of Labor (Standing Orders) Act, provided that an establishment may make its own rules subject to the approval by the Inspector of Factories, but these rules shall not be less favorable to a worker. It Is curious to note that some establishments viz. different Banks have formed their own rules much less favorable than the provisions of the Act. This Is possible for existence of a law namely President’s order No. 26 of 1972 contradictory to the provisions of this Act. So is the case with the provision of section 47Bof the Industrial Ordinance, 1969 wherein it is provided that no officer of a registered trade union shall be transferred from one place to another without his consent. This provision has become obsolete in cases of employees of some statutory corporations due to the provisions made in the Public Corporations (Management and co-ordination) Ordinance, 1986. Th9term ‘Worker’ has been defined in different Acts In different ways thereby creating anomalies and misunderstanding. To remove these anomalies and contradictions and conflict amongst the statutory laws, compilation of the laws and preparation of a complete code Is urgently needed.
Non-existence of separate Procedural Law:
Labor Courts In. Bangladesh has been established under the provisions of the Industrial Relations Ordinance, 1969. A Court is set up under section 35 and its procedure and powers are defined in section 36 of the said Ordinance. The sections read asunder:
i. The Government may, by notification In the official Gazette, establish as many Labor Courts as It considers necessary and, where It establishes mort than one Labor Court, shall specify In the notification the territorial limits Which each one of them shall exercise jurisdiction under this ordinance.
ii. A labor Court shall consist of a Chairman appointed by the Government and two members to be appointed In the prescribed manner to advise the Chairman, one to represent the employers and the other to represent the workmen.
iii. Subject to the provision of this Ordinance, a Labor Court shall follow as neal1y as possible summary procedure as prescribed under the code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.
iv. A Labor Court shall, for the purpose of adjudicating and determining any industrial dispute, be deemed to be a civil Court and shall have the same power as are vested in such Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 including the powers of-
a) Enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath,
b) Compelling the production of documents and material objects,
c) Issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents and
d) Delivering expert decision in the event of failure of any party to appear before the Court.
v. A’ Labor Court shall, for’, the purpose of trying an offence under the Ordinance, have the same power as are vested In the court of a Magistrate of the first class under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898and shall, for the purpose of appeal from a sentence passed by it, be deemed to be a Court Of Sessions under that Code.
vi. No Court fee shall be payable for filing, exhibiting or recording any document, or obtaining any document from a Labor Court.
On the question whether the Labor Court can exercise the powers of a Civil Court and follow the procedure laid down in the code of civil procedure the superior courts’ opinion is divided. In some, cases, it has been held by the Honorable Supreme Court that Labor Court Is a Civil Court for limited purpose and thus it cannot grant Injunctions or entertain applications for restoration of cases under Order 9 Rule 9 or 13 of the code of Civil Procedure In cases decided dismissed for default. In some cases the Supreme Court expressed different opinion to the effect that a Labor Courts should be deemed to be a civil Court and it is competent to grant injunction and entertain, applications under Order 9 or Rule 9 or 13 of the Code of civil procedure. Since no decision has yet been received from the Honorable Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court, Labor Courts are free to follow either of the decisions. Accordingly no uniform justice is implied. In order to mitigate the controversy and to ensure proper justice a procedural law for guidance of the Labor Courts may be enacted or alternatively the provisions of the Code of Civil procedure and Code of Criminal Procedure as a whole may be made applicable In case of Labor Courts.
· Though there are so many laws for workers they are not well implemented.
· Though there are fire & safety law, many employers are not ensuring it.
· Workers are working more than the working hour but are not being well compensated.
· Many workers are working in such a condition which is difficult & unhygienic for them.
· Children are working in many mills & factories which are dangerous for them.
· Women workers are being deprived of.
· Existing laws must be applied strictly.
· The laws should be reexamined & need amendment.
· We should raise social awareness to oblige the laws.
· The workers should be aware of their Rights.
· Child labor should be stopped & they should get the chance of being educated.
· There should not be any gender discrimination in the workplace.
The Labor Court Bar Association has already brought the above mentioned defects to the notice of the Government and it is reported that the present Government has paid attention to these defects. In many opinions, if these defects could be removed, a lot of existing problems in the field of industrial and commercial sector could be solved. A commission, headed by a Justice of the Supreme Court need be formed for removal of the defects for safeguarding the rights of the workers as well as the employers.