Published in the Financial Express on 17 July 2017
The government formed a high-level committee to finalise the draft amendments to labour-and EPZ laws accommodating all labour-rights issues raised by western stakeholders, failing which Bangladesh’s European GSP may also be at risk.
As per a recipe coming from last month’s International Labour Conference (ILC), the government has to remake the laws within a timeframe set by the meet, officials said.
Headed by the principal secretary of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the committee will coordinate the functions of two separate technical committees working to prepare the drafts of the recast Bangladesh Labour Act and the Export Processing Zones (EPZ) law, they added.
“The committee, led by PMO’s principal secretary, is to ensure the amendments to the BLA and EPZ labour laws by the promised deadline made in the last ILC,” Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed told reporters Sunday after an inter-ministerial meeting.
According to the commitment the draft of the amendments has to be sent to the ILO (International Labour Organisation) by August 31, he added.
A Bangladesh delegation led by Law Minister Anisul Huq made commitments at the International Labour Conference held in Geneva last month that the country would address all the labour-rights-related concerns raised by the ILO.
The government meeting decided to fulfill the commitments in time, he said, adding that the draft of amendments to the BLA and EPZ labour laws would be finalised within August and be adopted by November 30 next.
The commerce minister presided over the meeting, attended by law minister Anisul Huq, state minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque, PMO principal secretary Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury and senior secretary Suraiya Begum, senior secretary for legislative and parliamentary affairs Mohammad Shahidul Haque, commerce secretary Shubhashish Bose, labour secretary Mikail Shipar, senior officials of Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) and Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) and leaders from Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).
A ‘special paragraph’ was adopted for Bangladesh in the 2015 ILC, recommending, among others, amendments of the labour law and the EPZ law to ensure freedom of association and collective bargaining in line with ILO convention.
It also suggested investigating all the alleged acts of anti-union discrimination without delay.
Following the government’s time-bound action plan and commitments to addressing the ILC’s recommendations, the last ILC made the same recommendations without putting them in the ‘special paragraph’, according to officials.
The European Union and other Sustainability Compact Partners in their last review meeting also pressed for addressing the ILC recommendations, in the wake of various developments in the country’s main export industry.
And the EU warned Bangladesh of temporary withdrawal of generalized scheme of preferences (GSP) on the European market if the country failed to address the labour-rights-related issues.
Some labour rights issues and tragic workplace accidents had earlier led to suspension of GSP facility for Bangladesh on the US market.
The sustainability deals and moves for streamlining the readymade garment sector were kicked off following those developments-and western coalitions of buyers and labour lobbies are active in this matter.