President returns labour amendment bill

Parliament buildingFile photo

President Mohammed Shahabuddin did not sign the "Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill-2023" and sent it back to parliament for reconsideration despite parliament having passed the bill.

As a result, the bill will not become a law for the time being, which was passed in a hurry at the last session of the 11th parliament.

The "Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill-2023" was tabled at the House on 29 October, which was followed by sending it to the parliamentary standing committee on Ministry of Labour and Employment for scrutiny. The committee was given three days to report on the bill and it was passed in parliament on 2 November, followed by sending it to the president on 8 October for his consent.

Sources at the Parliament Secretariat said president Mohammed Shahabuddin did not sign the bill and sent it back to parliament on 20 November. The Parliament Secretariat released a bulletin with a message of the president on this matter on 22 November.

It said, “It is apparent that Section 45 of this bill may create confusion. So, it is necessary to reconsider that section. The bill was returned to the parliament for reconsideration as per Article 80(3) of Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.”

Sources concerned said the provision that was advised for reconsideration is about the penalty for illegal strike or lockout, which is Section 294 of the main law. The sub-section 1 of this provision states workers’ penalty for illegal strike, and the sub-section 2 states employers’ penalty for illegal lockout. However, the penalty is the same for both cases. But the amended bill increased fine for workers to Tk 20,000 from Tk 5,000 whereas the penalty for employers remains unchanged as sub-section 2 was not amended. Besides, the amended bill mentioned provision number 291, which is in fact 294, and it may create confusion. That is why the bill was returned for reconsideration.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, additional secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment Md Towfiqul Arif said they are yet to receive the copy of the bill. They proposed to increase the punishment in both cases. There might have been a clerical mistake later. It will be clear once they get the copy of the bill.

A bill passed by the parliament becomes a law after the approval of the president. According to the constitution, the president will approve a bill within 15 days of its submission. The president also has the authority to return any bill except the finance bill for reconsideration.

The incident of the president returning any bill is rare. Lastly, in 1998, the then president Shahabuddin Ahmed returned a bill passed by the seventh parliament.

There have been pressures from the US and the European Union (EU) regarding several issues, including easing the formation process of trade unions and implementation of the labour laws in the areas under EPZ.

The government has taken the initiative to amend the labour law during the last days of the current term mainly because of this. However, the amendment is not going to be in effect during this term of the government.

Seeking anonymity, an official of the parliament secretariat told Prothom Alo that already the last session of the current 11th parliament is over. So the passed bill will be obsolete. The bill will have to be raised again in the 12th national parliament.