The expert committee of the International Labour Organisation in its observation urged the government to ensure that the Bangladesh Labour Act and the Bangladesh Labour Rules meet ILO Conventions.

The ILO also urged the government for ensuring the draft EPZ Labour Act allows freedom of association for workers’ and employers’ organisations and is brought into conformity with the provisions of the convention, said the report.

The committee asked for: continuation of the investigation of all alleged acts of anti-union discrimination, including in Ashulia; ensure reinstatement of those illegally dismissed; and impose fines or criminal sanctions (particularly in cases of violence against trade unionists) according to the law.

The committee urged for ensuring the applications for union registration are acted upon expeditiously and are not denied unless they fail to meet clear and objective criteria set forth in the law. It also urged the government to continue to effectively engage in ILO technical assistance to address the above recommendations and to report in detail on the measures taken to implement the recommendations to the next meeting.

In its previous comments, having noted the serious incidents of violence, retaliation and harassment against workers alleged by the International Trade Union Confederation, the committee requested the government to provide detailed information on the outcome of investigations and trials into these allegations. The committee noted the government’s reply to the allegations raised as well as its general statement that all cases of alleged violence and harassment are investigated neutrally and impartially by the relevant authorities.

The ILO observed, however, that the government did not provide information on the investigations or any measures with respect to a number of specific allegations raised in the ITUC comments. The committee further noted with concern the new allegations of arrest, detention, surveillance, violence and intimidation of workers contained in the 2017 ITUC communication. The ILO observation came at a time when the government has been working to amend the labour law to ensure better labour rights under the pressure from international communities. Last year, the International Labour Conference, the ILO’s annual meeting, asked Bangladesh to amend the labour law as the workers were not able to exercise the full freedom of association and formation of trade unions. As per the commitments, the government sent the draft copy of the proposed amendment of the labour law and the ILO’s expert committee made the observation on the draft.

Meanwhile, Mujibul Haque Chunnu, State Minister for labour and employment, said the percentage of workers whose consent is required for forming trade unions in garment factories will be brought down to 25 from 30. “We have already made the draft of the amendment and sent it to ILO for its observation,” he said, adding that the labour law would be placed in the parliament’s next session to finalise it as a law. Haque was speaking after a meeting with leaders of a parliamentary delegation of the European Union.