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Bangladesh – Revised labour law falls short of international standard

24 July 2013

Amendments to the Bangladesh Labour Act will hopefully prove to be a first step towards fulfilling the government’s obligation to respect fully the fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, according to a United Nation’s report.

Bangladesh has ratified the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) conventions of freedom of association and collective bargaining (conventions 87 and 88). Conformity to these conventions will be fully reviewed by the ILO later in the year. Initial reviews, however, suggest that while the amendments did address some of the ILO’s specific concerns, they fell short in other areas. Namely, to bring the labour law into conformity with ratified international labour standards.

The ILO stated: “Important additional labour reforms will be required to fulfil the government’s commitments and obligations, and these should be undertaken as a matter of urgency. The ILO offers to work with urgency on the regulations required to implement the amendments and to build the capacity of the labour inspectorate to assume its new responsibilities.”    

The collapse of a factory on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka, killing more than 1,000 people has prompted the inclusion of workplace safety provision as a priority. Between three and five million workers are employed in similar factories across Bangladesh.

The revisions to the labour laws eliminate the obligation to send to employers the names of union leaders when a trade union is registered. It allows workers to call on outside experts for advice during collective bargaining. The ILO also noted that the revisions do not prohibit discrimination in employment or remuneration. Nor do they prohibit debt bondage by children or compulsory labour as a form of punishment. 

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