Sunday, February 17, 2019 | ePaper

Workers should now get better facilities

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GOVERNMENT has relaxed the labour law for the Export Processing zones (EPZs) with the view to ensuring workers' better rights employed in the special industrial regions. On Monday, the Cabinet approved the new amendments to the 'Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act-2016' allowing the workers to enjoy the freedom of association to realise their rational and reasonable demands.
Previously, it was mandatory to require 30 percent workers' consent to form a Workers' Welfare Association (WWA) in an EPZ factory. The requirement threshold has been lowered to 20 percent because of the pressure from the EU, Canada, the International Labour Organisation and the US. After shutting down GSP facilities by the US, the EU is now the single largest export destination for the ready-made garments manufactured in Bangladesh.
Henceforth, the existing WWAs will act like unions. The workers also could constitute federation of WWAs. Besides, it will permit the officials of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments to inspect the EPZs factories, apart from the officials of the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA).
What's most significant is that, the job security to the elected leaders of WWAs has been guaranteed under the law in case of strikes and lockouts. Moreover, if a worker goes into retirement at the age of 60, after completion of 25 years in job, or he or she resigns, he or she will receive basic salary equivalent to 45 days for each year of their service, up from the existing 30 days. A worker if completes 25 years in job, he will enjoy full compensation benefit.
In fact, the workers' rights of trade union came under the spotlight following the labour unrests at different RMG factories of Ashulia in Savar in the previous years. These incidents had raised a question over workers rights as the owners often fired workers following the unrests without showing any reason, whatsoever.
Though belated, we do welcome the government's move to make the amendments, which were required in line with the international labour standards. There was severe international pressure to allow trade unions in the EPZ though the country is still deprived of GSP facilities. Government now should take diplomatic initiatives to get highest facilities from the European market for export of our garment products along with reinstating of GSP facilities.  

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