The European Union wants to resume talks with Bangladesh on finalising labour rights roadmap as it plans to shape up the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) regulations by the end of next month.
The roadmap is a key requirement for Bangladesh to maintain exports to the 27-nation economic group, officials said.
The EU has recently sent a note to the ministries concerned regarding the proposed roadmap for addressing the labour issues, the work on which has been on hold since March, 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The note stated the EU's proposal for a new GSP regulation will take shape by the end of November.
"The need to finalise the roadmap and put the labour rights reform on a time-bound path appears to be more urgent than ever," the note said.
In this context, the meeting will chalk out the next course of action towards achieving agreement on the roadmap by mid-November.
In November 2019, the EU provided the Bangladesh government with a list of suggested actions on labour rights to retain trade benefits under its EBA (everything but arms) initiative.
The regional bloc also asked the government to prepare a draft time-bound roadmap to address the issues.
On September 15, 2020, the EU proposed to hold a virtual meeting with the Labour Secretary, together with his counterparts in the ministries of Commerce and foreign affairs.
The virtual meeting between Bangladesh and the EU is likely to be held on October, 20, a high official of the labour ministry said.
When contacted, labour and employment secretary K. M. Abdus Salam said the government is working on the labour rights roadmap proposed by the EU.
"We are examining different aspects, especially on the possible labour rights issues to be incorporated into the roadmap," he said.
Last year, the political and economic bloc of Europe requested Bangladeshi government to submit a time-bound roadmap for addressing the issues that include amendment of the labour law and the EPZ (export processing zone) labour law by January 02.
The ministry of Labour and Employment sent the action plan on labour issues for improvement of labour rights in Bangladesh on January 02, 2020.
The action plan was made broadly on nine issues, including making Bangladesh labour law in compliance with ILO standards on freedom of association and collective bargaining and eliminating child labour in all its forms by 2025 and its worst forms by 2021.
Other issues include combating violence against workers, harassment, unfair labour practices, increasing the success rate of application for trade union registration (paper and online) to a minimum of 90 per cent and avoid discretionary refusal of trade union registrations.
The government is working on resolving human and labour rights issues upon which the EU's EBA preferences are conditional, a labour ministry official said.
The EU as a whole is the single largest destination of Bangladesh-made exportable goods.
Bangladesh fetched US$18.70 billion from the EU market in the fiscal year, 2019-20, which was 55.53 per cent of the country's total export earnings.