A high-powered trade mission from the European Union (EU) is visiting Dhaka to oversee labour rights situation in Bangladesh and review the country's eligibility to retain the trade benefits under its EBA regime, sources said.
As part of their three-day visit, the delegation held meetings on Monday and Tuesday with the rights groups and industry leaders, including Bangladesh Employers Federation (BEF), Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
The delegation sits with the government high-ups today (Wednesday).
During the meetings in last two days, the delegation wanted to know about the developments on full alignment of the labour law to the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and labour rules comply with ILO conventions 87 and 98 related to right to organize and collective bargaining, meeting sources said.
It also wanted to know about the developments on the protection against acts of anti-union discrimination, registration of trade unions and shortcomings in legal alignment with ILO conventions.
When asked, BGMEA president Dr Rubana Huq said the delegation had queries on trade union issues including low rate of online trade union registration.
They also stressed the need for further reducing trade union registration threshold to 10 per cent, she said, adding: "The government has recently reduced the threshold to 20 per cent from 30 per cent."
The delegation, however, commended us on the progress so far and also for the agreement with the Accord and having investigated the termination and cases related to the minimum wage protest, she said.
BKMEA first vice president Mohammad Hatem said the delegation stressed on ensuring labour rights in line with ILO conventions and ratify the ILO convention related to child labour to get GSP plus benefit.
Regarding EPZs issue, they also sought industry assistance, he noted.
Towhidur Rahman, former secretary general of Industriall Bangladesh Council, said they discussed trade union issues like registration, labour law reforms and continuation of the GSP facility.
He alleged that the rate of trade union registration is low in recent times while the labour law is not workers-friendly. For example, the government in every six months extends the overtime duration to four hours while the international standard is two hours, he noted.
The delegation has also been urged to continue with the GSP facility for the country.
Earlier, the EU delegation's visit to Bangladesh was announced in July after the EU's move to increase its scrutiny of the enforcement level of GSP (Generalised scheme of preferences) regulations amid rising exports from beneficiary countries, including Bangladesh, ministry sources said.
"One of the objectives of the mission is to discuss the latest labour law reforms in Bangladesh and collect necessary information to be able to report on developments and progress made on the remaining issues in the forthcoming biennial GSP report for the European Parliament and the EU member states represented in the Council," according to the European Commission's (EC) trade director's letter to Bangladesh authority.
Bangladesh's exports under the EBA to the EU countries saw over 12 per cent growth in 2017.
The impact of the enhanced engagement process will thus be a major element of the next biennial report to be published on January 01 next year, the letter said.
EU is the single largest destination of Bangladesh made exportable goods.
About 62 per cent or US$ 21.13 billion out of total $34.13 billion readymade garment products from Bangladesh were shipped to EU in the just-concluded fiscal year (2018-19), according to the BGMEA data.