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    Bangladesh Violates Rights of the Workers Who Fuel Its Galloping Economic Growth, Says Report

    Civil societyAccreditationBangladesh Violates Rights of the Workers Who Fuel Its...
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    Bangladesh Violates Rights of the Workers Who Fuel Its Galloping Economic Growth, Says Report

    Workers have been exposed to mass dismissals and criminal prosecution for exercising their right to peaceful protest, the report says. It points out how Bangladesh has frustrated establishment of unions with an extremely burdensome registration process.

    For the sixth consecutive year since 2017, Bangladesh has been ranked among the world’s top 10 worst countries for workers, where labour rights. are not guaranteed, according to a global survey.

    The Global Rights Index-2022, launched by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has pointed to regressive laws and obstacles to forming association and unions, a right guaranteed by the country’s Constitution.

    The report also says that police violence has worsened the situation of working people in the country.

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    “[The year] 2022 was marked by the use of extreme police brutality to repress strike actions, notably in Bangladesh and India, where striking workers were killed,” reads the survey.

    Bangladesh’s peers, according to the Index are Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Myanmar, the Philippines and Turkey.

    The study cites the example of Bangladesh’s garment industry where forming unions were relentlessly obstructed.

    Strikes by garment industry workers have been met with extreme brutality by police, who often charge workers with batons and tear gas to disperse them, it says. There have also been instance of police firing live rounds of ammunition, the report says.

    The garment industry employs more than 4.5 million workers and has been the engine of the country’s economic progress.

    Workers have been exposed to mass dismissals and criminal prosecution for exercising their right to peaceful protest, the report says. It points out how Bangladesh has frustrated establishment of unions with an extremely burdensome registration process.

    Conspiracy, say Businesses

    When asked, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association executive president Mohammad Hatem terms the report ‘bull****’, saying there are records of vandalism and mid-level management beaten by workers.

    Hatem says that the report is the result of a conspiracy by local groups who survive on foreign fund. He objected to these groups informing their foreign counterparts of incident in the country’s garment industry before raising the issue with the managements or local government authorities.

    Hatem, however, does not hide his contempt for trade unions. He says, “I don’t believe that rights will be ensured through allowing trade unions only – there is evidence of ensuring rights and other benefits without unions.”

    But he went on to say that factory owners have no objection against responsible trade union, adding, “But in Bangladesh context, responsible trade union activities are absent.”

    Unfair labour practices

    The ninth edition of the index ranks countries against a number of internationally recognised indicators that give a clue to how well protected worker rights are in law and in practice in the 148 countries analysed for the report.

    Three out of four countries denied workers the right to establish and join a trade union. 113 countries excluded workers from their right to establish or join a trade union. An overwhelming number of countries hampered the registration of unions while a third exposed workers to physical violence. 128 countries violated the right to strike while four in five countries blocked collective bargaining.

    Bangladesh has been identified by ITUC as a country that does not guarantee workers’ rights.

    “While the legislation may spell out certain rights, workers have effectively no access to these rights and are, therefore, exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labour practices,” the report’s authors say.

    ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow says, “…workers are on the front line of multiple and extraordinary crises: historic levels of inequality, climate emergency, a pandemic destroying lives and livelihoods, and conflicts with devastating domestic and global impacts.”

    Speaking of “governments and employers attacking workers’ rights,” she says there is a need to “make governments realise they have to rebuild with a new social contract: jobs, wages, rights, social protection, equality and inclusion.”

     

    Image: BetterWork

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