The cabinet’s approval of the draft EPZ Labour Law 2016 enhancing workers’ right of association in export processing zones is a boost for calls on the United States to restore GSP trade privileges.
It is significant that the government has indicated its intention that the new law should help EPZs in Bangladesh comply with ILO conventions on freedom of association. Such compliance has been stated by the US to be a pre-requisite for it to restore GSP for Bangladeshi exporters.
Although the draft does not lift the prohibition on EPZ trade unions contained in the Bangladesh EPZ Act 2010, officials have expressly stated it is intended to help meet the demands of workers’ rights groups.
The proposed draft builds on the 2014 EPZ Labour Act which permits Workers’ Welfare Associations in EPZs to negotiate on behalf of workers in relation to working conditions and remuneration. It also lays down new compensation provisions for workplace injuries in EPZs.
Moreover the cabinet secretary has also told reporters that associations should be permitted to work like trade unions, while not being called as such.
While this shows the government is actively listening to concerns expressed by workers groups, it still leaves workers’ associations lacking the same legal status as unions
The government should rethink its rationale for barring trade unions from EPZs in the first place.
Improving rights of association for workers is vital to help guarantee conditions are continuously improved and safe-guarded. It is also sought after by many global consumers and brands, seeking to help guarantee compliance with rising expectations for workplace standards.
Ensuring labour rights are respected equally across the whole of the country would help make Bangladeshi-made goods more attractive, and have a positive impact on US legislators reviewing GSP status.
Source: Dhaka Tribune