ITUC Plan of Action for Bangladesh

Next week the ITUC is sending a mission to Bangladesh in order to meet with the Bangladesh affiliates and together create a comprehensive, multi-year “country-at risk” plan.

The plan will focus on at least three areas. First, Bangladesh must enact meaningful labour law reform consistent with ILO standards. Today, the labour law allows workers to join or form unions and to bargain collectively but imposes several serious limitations on those rights. Further, the government has routinely failed to apply or enforce existing law in an effort, with employers, to keep unions out of workplaces.

For years, the ITUC has pressed the government on its substandard laws. A renewed push for robust changes to the Labour Act, as well as the labour law governing the EPZs (which prohibits unions and allows only for “worker associations”), as well as its effective application, will be central to the plan.

Second, in coordination with the relevant GUFs and solidarity organizations, ITUC will support efforts to organize in the vast garment sector, as well as in other key export-oriented industries, including the EPZs, shipbuilding, shipbreaking and seafood.

Finally, we will look to support workers’ demands on wages and social protection. Wages in Bangladesh are among the lowest in the region – and actually – in the world. There are laws requiring payment of 5% of profits into a fund, the only social security workers have, but rarely respected in practice.

The ITUC will work to raise wages and ensure that all benefits which workers are owed are paid in full. Of course, many other problems need attention, from child labour to trafficking in persons. In conjunction with the local trade unions, we will keep monitoring these issues and intervening where possible.