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Labour reform in Bangladesh misses mark

GENEVA (UCAN): Bangladesh reacted angrily on July 23 to a criticism made by the United Nations (UN) International Labour Organisation (ILO) of the country’s revamped labour legislation. The ILO claims that it falls short of required standards.

The labour secretary in Dhaka, Mikail Shipar, claimed that the Bangladeshi government had done enough to address the worker safety and labour practice issues that were raised at a meeting in Geneva on July 8 between the government, the UN labour organisation and the European Union.

Bangladesh had revamped its labour legislation following the suspension of trade privileges by the United States of America in the wake of flaws shown up by the collapse of a clothing factory in Rana Plaza in April and the Tazreen factory fire in November last year.

However, the International Labour Organisation said that it falls well short of the mark.

The European Union, Bangladesh’s single largest apparel market, had also threatened to revoke duty-free access if labour practices and workplace safety are not improved.

The revamped labour legislation has stricter rules on structural design and safety standards in factories, workers’ rights to unionise without approval from factory owners and mandatory insurance, as well as compensation for sickness and injury.

It also gives workers the right to bargain with their employers.

Trade bodies welcomed the new legislation, but rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, criticised it for failing to protect the basic rights of workers.

However, the ILO said that although the revamped legislation does address some of its specific concerns, it falls short in several important areas.

“The International Labour Organisation calls on the government of Bangladesh to take the further steps necessary to fulfill its obligations,” a statement from the UN body reads.

“Conformity of the amended legislation with international labour standards ratified by Bangladesh will be reviewed by the International Labour Organisation supervisory machinery later in the year,” it continues.

Shipar responded by saying that some of the criticisms were not agreed upon at the July 8 meeting. “So a review on them by the supervisory machinery is not part of the deal,” Shipar stated.


Sources at the Labour Ministry say the International Labour Organisation representative in Bangladesh has been informed of the government’s dissatisfaction with the statement.

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