Tripartite talks on labour law reform stressed

Female workers work at a clothing factory in Chattogram.File photo

The International Labour Organization has suggested the government and other stakeholders hold tripartite talks on labour law to bring about necessary reforms with priority.

The ILO made the recommendations in its draft observation on the report by the government of Bangladesh on progress made in line with the ILO roadmap.

The progress on the labour situation in Bangladesh will be discussed at the ongoing 350th session of the ILO in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday where the Bangladesh delegation will highlight the steps the government has taken in line with the ILO roadmap so far. The session will also analyse the progress of the Bangladesh government’s commitments to labour rights protection.

The session began on 4 March and will end on 14 March. On 29 February, Bangladesh submitted the report for the evaluation at this session.

According to the report, the amendment that was carried out in the labour law before the 7 January election, the president returned that with some observations. That is why the bill was not passed and the government expects the labour law bill will be passed in the first session of the 12th parliament.

Though the first session of the current parliament was held from 30 January to 5 March, the amended labour bill was not tabled in the parliament.

The ILO gave observations on the Bangladesh report and those were published on their website on 8 March. ILO said in its observation that Bangladesh showed a strong determination on necessary reforms including amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Law between 2021 and 2026 as per their commitments.

The ILO called on the government and the stakeholders to pursue their tripartite consultations on the labour law reform in a constructive manner with a view to bringing about all necessary reforms with priority. If necessary the ILO technical assistance and the support of workers and owners can be taken.

Bangladesh said in its report that the country began the process of amending the labour law following the recommendations of ILO and others concerned. That is why the cabinet approved the bill and the parliament passed it at its last session. The bill was then sent to the president, but he returned it with several observations.

Following the national election on 7 January, the new government resumed the amendment process, brought more changes to the amended bill following the recommendation of the president and the discussion of the law review committee, and finalised it on 23 January. The finalised amendment bill now awaits the approval of the National Tripartite Consultative Council (NTCC), followed by the cabinet’s nod.

Bangladesh said in its report that the government is sincere in the implementation of the commitments on the 2021-2026 roadmap for the labour sector reform including labour rights and safety.

The government has already submitted a report on recent progress in the labour sector including administrative, legal and policy, trade union operation, workplace safety, wage, capacity development and labour welfare. Recently, the ILO in a board meeting lauded these timely initiatives taken by the government of Bangladesh to maintain the international standard.

The UN agency also took note of the roadmap of actions submitted by the government, which was developed around four priority areas: labour law reform; trade union registration; labour inspection and enforcement; and addressing acts of anti-union discrimination and unfair labour practices and violence against workers

ILO wants workers' participation required to form trade unions at factories to be fixed at 10 per cent, but the government deems it would be practical to take decisions through the talks between factory owners and workers. ILO is still not satisfied on several issues including the formation of a trade union, labour inspection and freedom of assembly. The UN agency also wants to see that Bangladesh makes progress as per its all commitments made in the amended law during its 352nd session.

According to diplomatic sources, this time Bangladesh has taken the ILO hearing sincerely because the government could not implement many commitments of the roadmap due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the ILO has already been informed of the matter. Bangladesh, however, will do everything that includes amending labour law in light of international standards within the stipulated time of 2026 and Bangladesh remains firm on its commitments.

In the report, Bangladesh highlighted various progresses made by the government including training on capacity building in the labour sector, simplification of trade union registration, recruitment of labour inspector, formation of labour court, setting up a helpline, speedy disposal of old cases, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and raising awareness.