a year ago

Rights issues: Bangladesh to amend labour law with EU recipe

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The government is working to amend the labour law with some suggestions on rights issues made by the European Union and the International Labour Organisation.

Sources say a high-powered working committee comprising representatives from government agencies, apparel sectors and labour organisations has been formed to amend the Bangladesh Labour Act-2006.

Earlier, labour ministry formed a tripartite committee to amend the law as per recommendations on labour rights issues raised by stakeholders.

The law was amended to continue getting tariff benefits from the 27-nation economic bloc under the new generalised system of preferences (GSP) from 2024.

The law was already amended in 2018. But it is going for further amendment as suggested by the EU and the ILO, according to the minutes of a meeting.

The committee will submit an initial report by reviewing a package of proposals within October 30 to the main tripartite committee.

The need to amend the BLA has been felt following a plea by the EU in line with ILO conventions, a high official of the ministry cites.

"We're working on the issue and constituted a high-powered working committee on June 16 and a tripartite committee earlier to this end," he says.

In May 2022, the European Commission wrote to foreign, commerce and labour ministries of Bangladesh following an 'Everything but Arms' (EBA) monitoring mission in mid-March in Dhaka.

It said many commitments made by Bangladesh, including amending various rules under the BLA and the EPZ Labour Act, remained unmet and months have elapsed without meeting the timeline.

The EU wants that Bangladesh make its labour laws ILO-compliant, eliminate child labour by 2025, combat violence against workers, harassment, unfair practices, and anti-union discrimination, and appoint sufficient labour inspectors.

"We are also concerned about the pace of taking action to eliminate child labour and about not providing necessary capacity and structures to ensure an effective industrial safety."

The letter also listed some key points of the National Action Plan that was raised during the mission.

"…it is of paramount importance to be able to show also to our stakeholders, including European Parliament and 27 member states, that the commitments made by Bangladesh are being fulfilled on time."

The EC notes that timely fulfilment of the commitments has also been pointed out as being the key by the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament in its April 20 session.

The letter says European Parliament has been discussing the Commission's proposal for a new GSP regulation, including the vulnerability criteria for accessing GSP.

"In this context, we would like to reiterate that duty-free, quota-free imports under the current EBA arrangement of GSP are conditional in compliance with international labour and human rights," it adds.

On the protection of human rights, as underlined during the EBA monitoring mission, it is the key to addressing concerns in the area of freedom of expression, including in digital space, and the combat of extrajudicial killings and torture, and violence against women and marginalised groups.

Availing concessional-trade facility under the GSP Plus window is considered important for Bangladesh after its graduation from the world's poor-country club dubbed LDCs or least-developed countries by 2026.

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