US delegation inquires about labour rights, trade union situations

  • Investigation into labour leader Shahidul Islam's murder came up in the discussion

  • The US is keeping an eye on the reforms being introduced in Bangladesh’s labour law

  • The US delegation to hold meeting at different levels of government Sunday

Eileen Laubacher (left), Michael Schiffer (middle) and Afreen Akhter ( right).Collected

A US delegation of senior officials visiting Dhaka wanted to know the role the labour law was playing to protect the labour rights and workers’ welfare in Bangladesh. The delegation was also trying to understand how satisfied the workers were in exercising their trade union rights.

Two senior officials from the US Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) discussed the labour situation in Bangladesh with a delegation of workers Saturday afternoon.

US deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia at the US Department of State, Afreen Akhter reached Dhaka on a three-day visit to Bangladesh on Saturday morning.

The US diplomat began her spate of meetings in Bangladesh with Mirza Fakhrul Islam, secretary general to the key opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), in the afternoon. They  talked about the imprisonment of the opposition leaders and activists and the ongoing political situation in Bangladesh.

Later in the afternoon, Afreen Akhter and assistant administrator at USAID Bureau for Asia, Michael Schiffer met with the leaders of Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation at the office of Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity in the capital’s Rampura area.

After the meeting the US delegation, Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation president Kalpana Akter in the evening told Prothom Alo over the phone that the US is keeping an eye on the reforms being introduced to Bangladesh’s labour law.

The US officials asked about the workers’ thoughts on the existing labour law. The US Delegation also wanted to know about what sort of reforms are needed to protect workers’ welfare and interest.

They asked about the latest picture of trade union registration and what kind of obstacles the workers are currently facing while carrying out trade union activities in particular, she added.

Kalpana Akter also informed Prothom Alo that the issue of labour leader Shahidul Islam murder came up in the discussion. They have been notified that the investigation has been going on properly as of now, she said.

Shahidul Islam, president of the Gazipur district chapter of Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation, was killed in Tongi area on 25 June.

Kalpana Akter further said that the issue of the prospective role the American buyers could play in reforming Bangladesh’s labour law as well as in safeguarding workers’ welfare and rights came up in the discussion.

The labour organisers have pointed out that purchase of apparels from Bangladesh at a lower price is a big concern in this case. They have stressed on holding a dialogue to overcome the situation as well as for a positive role.

Led by the special assistant to the US president and senior director for South Asia at the US National Security Council, Eileen Laubacher, the head of the US delegation, a bilateral meeting would be held between the two countries today, Sunday.

Meetings were held with the different levels of the government in the morning at the secretariat. The main meeting was scheduled with foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen in the afternoon.

Apart from that, the US delegation will meet the prime minister’s private industry and investment advisor Salman F Rahman in the evening.

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