The ITUC has called on the Bangladesh government to set up a transparent and effective monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the ILO road map.
The government of Bangladesh has been told to improve conditions for workers by November 2022 or face a Commission of Inquiry – the highest-level investigation that the International Labour Organization (ILO) can carry out into a country persistently failing to protect workers’ rights.
Only 14 Commissions of Inquiry have been undertaken by the ILO since it was established in 1919. An investigation into Bangladesh would put the country alongside Belarus, Venezuela and Zimbabwe – countries that have been subject to the most recent investigations by the organisation.
“Weekly reports are issued of deaths at work in Bangladesh, violent attacks against workers and harassment and intimidation of trade union members,” said said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.
“The government continues to ignore these deaths and violent attacks on its own citizens as it fails to make any meaningful progress to improve labour laws,” Burrow said, adding, “The prescription has been given by the ILO to improve workers’ rights, but the government’s continued refusal to take the medicine that will save workers lives and ensure decent work is beyond understanding,”.
The ITUC has called on the Bangladesh government to set up a transparent and effective monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the ILO road map and meaningfully consult with tripartite constituents on all the action points.
Labour rights advocates say that the government could have an immediate positive impact on working conditions if it undertook to consult with unions in a meaningful and non-discriminatory way and worked to make progress on the Bangladesh Labour Act, the EPZ Act and their accompanying rules. But, the activists say, is taking a long time, with bottlenecks all along the way.
For instance, the process of registering a trade union in Bangladesh is a very tedious one. On the other hand, the State, almost by default, intimidates trade union officials. Union officials are not consulted on EPZ inspections or to promote an effective system for addressing issues concerned with occupational health and safety in the country. Living minimum wages need to be established and unfair labour practices need to be addressed, besides ending the backlog of cases and complaints;
“There is no moral, political or economic reason for delay. Improving conditions for workers will save lives, increase productivity and strengthen workplace and national democracy in Bangladesh. The time to act is now,” said Sharan Burrow.
Hitting out at authorities in the country, Burrow says that the ILO’s roadmap to improve working conditions in Bangladesh is now a checklist of broken promises delivered by the government with alarming consequences for working people.
Image: Betterwork Bangladesh