‘Non-implementation of labour law remains a challenge’

Staff Correspondent

Implementation of labour law and elimination of unfair labour practices are needed for ensuring improved working condition and worker rights in the readymade garment sector, speakers said at a commemoration event to mark the second anniversary of Rana Plaza tragedy Thursday.
They said that following the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 24, 2013 Bangladesh has made significant progresses in some areas but more needs to be done to achieve success in many areas.
The event, ‘Rana Plaza Two Years On: Towards a Safer RMG Sector for Bangladesh’ was jointly organised by the Government of Bangladesh and ILO at Hotel Sonargaon in the city.
Proper investigation and prosecution in the violence on trade union activists are important to ensure workers rights, as well as to protect the freedom of association, said Pierre Mayaudon head of delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh.
He said that formulation of implementation rules of labour act is a key requirement to setting up of occupational health and safety committees but following two years of the amendment of labour law, rules are yet to be finalised.
The US ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat said that certain actors have resorted to illegal tactics to prevent unions  from  forming,  such  as  firing,  threatening  and  even  beating  suspected  union  leaders.
‘These are illegal and criminal acts and the Government of Bangladesh has been slow – or unable –to respond,’ she said.
Bernicat said  ‘unions  who  have  tried  to  register  and  are  unjustly  rejected — workers  who  try  to  engage with management and are unjustly fired — workers who try to speak and feel unheard — their voices are not silenced and their needs do not cease to exist’.
She, however, said that the government has already begun to take steps to protect workers’ rights but more needs to be done.
Canadian high commissioner to Bangladesh Benoit Pierre Laramee also stressed on formulation of rules under the amended labour act.
‘The rules are essential to guide the establishments of occupational health and safety committees in the factories,’ he said.
Martine van Hoogstraten, charge d Affaires of the embassy of Netherlands in Bangladesh said that significant efforts are still needed to ensure worker rights in the readymade garment sector in Bangladesh.
Martine urged the government and garment factory owners to extend their support so that all factories come under inspection as some of the factory owners are not cooperating with the inspection teams.
Roy Ramesh Chandra, Secretary General, IndustriALL Bangladesh requested diplomats to mount pressure on global brands so that they contribute to the Rana Plaza Donor Trust Fund without any delay, for ensuring the rest 30 per cent of compensation to the survivors and families of victims.
Mujibul Haque, state Minister for labour and employment said the capacity of the labour inspectorate and Fire Service is much stronger, while legislative amendments have led to the establishment of many more unions, he said.
Tomoko Nishimoto, assistant director-general and regional director for Asia and the Pacific, ILO, said significant progress has been made but many challenges remain.
Completing the remaining factory inspections is high priority and government must verify factories claiming to be closed as well as deal with those which will not cooperate, she said.

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