The number of cases pending with the labour courts across the country has marked a significant rise over the years, causing psychological and financial woes to the workers and employees concerned.
Although the number of cases has been increasing throughout the years, the number of courts and judges has been almost the same, making it difficult for the courts to handle the cases smoothly.
Official data of the Labour Appellate Tribunal showed as many as 17,703 cases remained pending with the labour courts as of May 2018, while the number was 17,203 and 15,983 in 2017 and in 2016 respectively.
In this May, the Labour Appellate Tribunal and the seven labour courts disposed only 06 and 590 cases respectively.
A total of 991 cases were pending with the appellate tribunal, 3,969 cases with the Dhaka First Labour Court, 5,981 with the Dhaka Second Court, and 3,723 cases with the Dhaka Third Court.
Besides, 1,303 cases were pending with the Chittagong First Court, 772 cases with the Chittagong Second Court, 412 with the Khulna Court, and 552 cases with the Rajshahi Court.
Of the 991 cases pending with the appellate tribunal, the High Court stayed 221 cases.
Most of the pending cases involve the apparel sector. Layoffs, dismissals, non-payment and delayed payment of wages and other benefits, compensation for workplace injuries, and violation of trade union rights are found among the main reasons behind these disputes.
A total of 11,537 cases are pending with the labour courts for more than six months, while 2,782 cases for more than three months.
Besides, 421 cases are pending with the Labour Appellate Tribunal for more than six months, while 548 cases for more than three months.
Law experts, lawyers, and people involved with the labour cases blamed various loopholes in the labour law, lack of willingness of the employers, frequent changes of hearing dates, shortage of judges, and insufficient number of benches of the Appellate Tribunal for the inordinate delay.
They also said in many circumstances the workers concerned could not run the cases alone due to their poor financial condition.
If someone appeals to the higher courts, settlement process of the case becomes lengthier in the labour court, they added.
Sajeda, a 30-year-old woman, was employed as an operator at a garment factory in Gazipur. She worked at the factory for four years, but lost her job in 2013.
Later, she lodged a case with a labour court in Dhaka for getting justice. Almost after five years, the case is still unsettled.
She said she was trying to settle the case, but the employer was not cooperating in this regard.
Sajeda also alleged that like her, a good number of garment workers lost their jobs improperly.
Juel, a youth who hailed from Sherpur district, worked at a garment factory in Gazipur. He was sacked from his job owing to a petty reason.
He filed a case with the Dhaka third court in 2013. The court gave the verdict in the case in 2016, but he is yet to receive his dues.
Law Minister Anisul Huq told the FE that the number of disputes regarding various labour-related issues has been increasing due to the gradual rise in the number of workers.
However, the courts have been efficiently handling such cases amid their limited resources, he opined.
The minister did not give any indication of increasing the number of courts and judges (to settle the pending cases).
Garment Workers' Trade Union Centre general secretary Joly Talukder told the FE that most of the workers suffer a lot financially and mentally following the long delay in getting justice.
Many stop appearing before the court after filing a case due to the lingering legal procedure to end it, she added.
She, however, admitted that although justice is delayed for long, but many workers get their legal dues in the long run.
Advocate Salim Ahsan Khan, a lawyer of the Supreme Court, told the FE that the owners' lawyers file unnecessary time petitions repeatedly, which delays the decisions of the courts and lingers the case.