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Bangladesh’s government must sincerely implement ILO Roadmap

27 February, 2024Ahead of the upcoming ILO Governing Body meeting in March, the report submitted by the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) on the implementation of the Roadmap appears to be an exercise of ticking boxes instead of working towards upholding the spirit of the Roadmap process. IndustriALL is calling on the GoB to sincerely implement the Roadmap.

The Roadmap is a time-bound action plan drafted by the GoB addressing the outstanding issues mentioned in the Article 26 complaint. The complaint was filed by several workers’ organizations to the ILO in 2019 on the non-observance of Conventions 81, 87 and 98 by the GoB. The Roadmap prioritises four areas for intervention: (i) labour law reforms, (ii) trade union registration, (iii) labour inspection and enforcement, (iv) addressing acts of anti-union discrimination/unfair labour practices and violence against workers.

In the latest GoB report, dated 16 February 2024, concrete details regarding actions taken by government to guarantee workers' rights and workplace safety in the country are starkly missing. According to news reports, Bangladesh’s President has withheld assent to the amended labour law bill as it raised the fine for workers to BDT20,000 (US$180), but the penalty for employers which is BDT5,000 (US$45) remained unchanged in the context of strike or lockout. This provision results in blatant discrimination against workers and trade unions. 

In the tripartite consultation process to amend labour laws and rules, including those applicable in Export Processing Zones, IndustriALL’s affiliates were neither consulted nor were their suggestions considered. The consultation process without IndustriALL’s affiliates’ involvement is a farce given that they represent more than 80 per cent of unionized workforce  in the Ready Made Garment industry which contributes about 86 per cent to the country’s export earnings.

Last year 27 proposed unions, supported by IndustriALL’s affiliates, filed for union registration but only eight were approved and 19 rejected. The reason cited by the Department of Labour was that there is less than 20 per cent of the workforce mentioned as the proposed membership, but that is incorrect.  

The GoB report mentions that 81,210 inspections were carried out from July 2021 to December 2023. This indicates that about 90 inspections daily. This is an inflated figure especially considering the number of labour inspectors available, which is 450 according to the GoB report, and the type of work that needs to be done before and after an inspection. 

IndustriALL’s affiliates indicate that there is a huge backlog of cases in labour courts, and there isn’t an adequate number of staff to deal with such volume of cases. They also inform that recently the courts have started demanding the national identity card and passport size photos for submission of a court case which workers find extremely difficult to comply with every time. 

The use of violence by security forces and Industrial Police to crush minimum wage protests, late last year, show that the government of Bangladesh has not delivered on the fourth priority area of the Roadmap. At least two workers were killed while many others were injured in the brutal suppression of the protests by the police force. The GoB report does not mention any of this and instead mentions that sensitisation seminars were conducted for Industrial Police.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary, Kemal Özkan, says:

“IndustriALL calls on the Government of Bangladesh to engage in good faith discussions with IndustriALL’s affiliates and other trade unions, and implement the Roadmap in a serious manner.” 

Photo: ILO Flickr