Bangladesh: Government put on notice to improve conditions or face ILO investigation

photo: AFP

The government of Bangladesh has been put on notice: improve conditions for workers by November 2022 or face a Commission of Inquiry – the highest-level investigation that the International Labour Organization (ILO) can carry out into a country that persistently fails to protect workers’ rights.

Only 14 Commissions of Inquiry have been undertaken by the ILO. An investigation into Bangladesh would put the country alongside Belarus, Venezuela and Zimbabwe who have been subject to the most recent investigations.

“The ILO’s roadmap to improve working conditions in Bangladesh is now a checklist of broken promises delivered by the government with alarming consequences for working people.

“Weekly reports are issued of deaths at work in Bangladesh, violent attacks against workers and harassment and intimidation of trade union members.

“The government continues to ignore these deaths and violent attacks on its own citizens as it fails to make any meaningful progress to improve labour laws. The prescription has been given by the ILO to improve workers’ rights, but the government’s continued refusal to take the medicine that will save workers lives and ensure decent work is beyond understanding,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

The ITUC is calling on the government of Bangladesh to immediately set up a transparent and effective monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the ILO road map and meaningfully consult with tripartite constituents on all the action points.

The government could have an immediate positive impact on working conditions if it undertook to:

  • Consult with unions in a meaningful and non-discriminatory way;
  • Comply with ratified ILO conventions;
  • Urgently make progress on the Bangladesh Labour Act, the EPZ Act and their accompanying rules;
  • Simplify the process of trade union registration;
  • Immediately end the intimidation of trade union officials;
  • Consult with unions on EPZ inspections and promote an effective national OHS system;
  • Ensure OSH committees are selected collaboration with elected worker representatives;
  • Address unfair labour practices and end the backlog of cases and complaints;
  • Establish a national living minimum wage.

“There is no moral, political or economic reason for delay. Improving conditions for workers will save lives, increase productivity and strengthen workplace and national democracy in Bangladesh. The time to act is now,” said Sharan Burrow.

Join the campaign to support workers who want #ABetterBangladesh.