A new regime of workers friendly environment in Bangladesh
Tuomo Poutiainen speaks to DOT :
The cabinet, on 3rd September 2018, approved in principle the draft of the amended Bangladesh Labour law which addresses issues of trade union registration, maternity protection and child labour. The Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act 2018 has been reviewed following observations provided by the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations at the International Labour Conference in June 2018.
Tuomo Poutiainen, the Country Director of ILO in Bangladesh said that the ILO commends the government’s initiative to revise Bangladesh Labour Act. Before this law was approved by the cabinet there has been a series of discussion meetings between the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and worker and employer representatives. “It is important that there is a technical as well as a consultative process to ensure optimal outcome for both employers and workers”, Poutiainen added. The Committee of Experts will review the current amendment in the law next year to check its compliance with international labour standards and the recommendations provided by the Committee.
The draft labour law addresses issues such as the percentage of workers required for trade union formation, time limit for the registration of trade unions and the definition of light work in line with ILO Convention 138 on the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and Work. The draft law also covers certain issues like compensation for the workers in case of work-related injuries or accidents.
ILO has been promoting a national Employment Injury Insurance (EII) scheme, which is a social protection system that includes compensation by in-kind benefits for medical treatment and rehabilitation services, and in-cash benefits for income loss caused by occupational injuries and diseases.
“Workplace accidents unfortunately occur in an industrialized system and so preparedness is important. Employees should be compensated regardless of who bears the responsibility. Hence we are advocating for the establishment of a national employment injury insurance scheme which would provide a safety net for those injured in the workplace, as well as the dependents of deceased workers”, Poutiainen said.
As per the current labour law, the primary responsibility for providing compensation lies with the employer and a lump sum amount is paid if a worker dies or is injured in an accident arising out of the course of his/her employment. However, the scheme that ILO promotes would introduce compensation benefit to be provided for a longer period of time. Employers’ contribution to the scheme protects them from compensation related law suits as well as bankruptcy or loss of business in case of mass accidents. The scheme also includes preventive and rehabilitation measures. If implemented, this would contribute towards harmonious industrial relations in Bangladesh.
In response to the collapse of Rana Plaza in April 2013, ILO launched an RMG programme which is now in its second phase. The programme fosters safer working conditions in the ready-made garment sector and works to strengthen the capacity of regulatory agencies responsible for ensuring safety. Poutiainen said, “The industry now has better capacity to address occupational safety and health (OSH) and industrial safety. We need to remember that this is a shared responsibility and the effort has to continue”.
Previously child labour was not clearly defined under the law. ILO has actively worked in shaping up the definition of light work and the same has been taken into account by the government in the recent amendment of the labour law.
“The new labour law is a positive effort of the government. However, more can be done to improve industrial relations and safety in Bangladesh”, Poutiainen said. “The new law shall also be reviewed by our Committee of Experts. Moving forwards the ILO is happy to continue to provide technical assistance and suggestions if further amendments are considered”.
Tuomo Poutiainen, the Country Director of ILO in Bangladesh
Interviewed by Tasmiah Nuhiya Ahmed, Executive Editor, Daily and Our Time on 3 December at ILO Office.