We wouldn’t be worried about US labour policy if we upheld labour rights


The current memorandum on labour rights issued by america is grounded of their international labour coverage. This coverage will not be focused at any particular nation, however, in response to them, might be utilized wherever labour rights are disregarded.

We do not know if this coverage might be applied instantly, however nations with widespread labour rights violations needs to be cautious of its potential affect. Due to this fact, it’s essential for our personal nation to look at its labour rights report, and the main target needs to be on guaranteeing that labour rights are upheld, as an alternative of exterior rhetoric or potential sanctions.

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The current wage motion by RMG staff serves as a stark proof of what occurs when wholesome union practices are suppressed and staff’ unionisation rights are restricted. Had these staff had a platform for dialogue and collective bargaining inside their respective factories, they might not be compelled to resort to protests. The brutal police crackdown on these protests, the evident political involvement, and the tragic lack of staff’ lives wouldn’t have occurred if staff loved the liberty to train their union rights.

We can’t deny the truth that labour rights are routinely violated in Bangladesh. There’s a blatant infringement of staff’ freedom of affiliation. Even with the ILO Conference and present labour rights legal guidelines, staff wrestle to freely train their union rights. Becoming a member of a union typically carries the stigma of criminality, and staff’ makes an attempt to advocate for his or her rights are met with retaliation and intimidation. Regardless of many reassurances by the Bangladesh authorities, it has repeatedly did not hold its guarantees, together with applicable modification of our labour regulation.

It is true that there are extra unions registered now in comparison with a decade in the past. Nevertheless, mere registration of unions doesn’t imply that every of them has efficient bargaining agreements. Solely a handful of unions have such agreements, and even these are functioning with difficulties. Whereas the variety of unions has risen, they’ve did not foster a tradition of wholesome union practices.

The current wage motion by RMG staff serves as a stark proof of what occurs when wholesome union practices are suppressed and staff’ unionisation rights are restricted. Had these staff had a platform for dialogue and collective bargaining inside their respective factories, they might not be compelled to resort to protests. The brutal police crackdown on these protests, the evident political involvement, and the tragic lack of staff’ lives wouldn’t have occurred if staff loved the liberty to train their union rights. This constitutes one other, extreme labour rights violation.

When labour rights violations happen or unfair labour practices happen, we’re speculated to go to courtroom, proper? However the staff can’t file complaints underneath such circumstances, per Part 195 of the labour regulation. As staff can’t instantly method the courts to file a case, they need to first navigate the bureaucratic maze of the Division of Labour (DoL). The DoL typically engages in protracted conferences, prolonging the grievance course of. Out of 100 complaints lodged with the DoL, barely two obtain approval for courtroom proceedings. In these courtroom proceedings, the DoL’s efficiency is noticeably dismal: in 90 p.c of the circumstances, they fail to win a conviction in opposition to the employer. DoL’s failure to guard the union leaders from being victimised by the employers and its incapability to implement reinstatement of terminated union leaders have nearly destroyed the leaders’ potential to meaningfully signify the employees.

The observe of operating industries whereas paying staff abysmally low wages is one other flagrant violation of labour rights. With the wages they get, they can not afford satisfactory vitamin, but they’re anticipated to keep up and even enhance manufacturing ranges. It’s unreasonable to count on optimum productiveness from staff who’re denied correct sustenance.

Throughout the RMG sector alone, roughly 40-42 lakh staff are employed, but their youngsters’s training wants are largely uncared for. Most of their youngsters are disadvantaged of training alternatives attributable to monetary constraints. Neither the trade house owners nor the federal government have taken any steps to make sure higher academic prospects for staff’ youngsters. Gender-based violence within the office is one other pervasive problem, but there aren’t any particular legal guidelines or safety mechanisms in place. Employees are left to endure these abuses in silence.

If that is the state of affairs with labour rights within the nation, we must always worry not solely the repercussions of the US memorandum, but in addition potential actions of the European Union, which is discussing the implementation of human rights due diligence. Furthermore, we’re at present pursuing an All the things however Arms (EBA) standing underneath Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for the European market, however this settlement additionally comes with stringent guidelines and rules. If the present situations persist, there’s a danger of restrictions on a number of fronts.

Whereas we’ve got made important strides in guaranteeing staff’ security within the RMG sector because the Rana Plaza tragedy, our potential to confidently declare our RMG factories secure stays restricted. Past this trade, the state of affairs is way bleaker, as evidenced by incidents just like the Hashem Meals Manufacturing unit hearth, the place staff, together with many youngsters, had been burnt to dying. Our authorities and RMG manufacturing unit house owners proudly boast quite a few licensed inexperienced and platinum factories. Whereas that is commendable, should you look at carefully, you may discover a evident disconnect between their certifications and labour rights practices. The main focus has been on inexperienced certifications, carbon emissions and different environmental elements, whereas the elemental problem of truthful wages and employee remedy has been neglected.

Now, coming to the point out of my identify within the context of the US memorandum, it’s essential to acknowledge the hardships that our organisation, colleagues and I’ve endured. We now have confronted lawsuits, imprisonment, and harassment associated to our organisational registration. In 2012, one in every of my colleagues went lacking, and his lifeless physique was discovered later, however the true perpetrators are but to be dropped at justice. Six months in the past, one other colleague was brutally overwhelmed to dying whereas helping staff in reclaiming their unpaid wages.

Through the wage motion in 2016, my colleague was imprisoned for 2 and a half months. He had not dedicated any crime there. He was blindfolded and brought to a area, the place he was advised to run. We now have confronted such conditions repeatedly.

If advocating for staff’ rights exposes us to such dangers, how can I be assured of my very own security? These are long-standing points, and the US Embassy should pay attention to them. Maybe, it is because of these long-standing points that they talked about my identify. Nevertheless, I imagine that there isn’t a want for any authorities or international entity to hunt our particular person opinions on the state of affairs. They’ve the assets and capability to look at and analyse the realities of our trade and staff’ situations. The notion that the US is making choices based mostly solely on our statements is extremely unlikely.

We can’t proceed to show a blind eye to the plight of staff when the proof of labour rights violations is in plain sight. We should create an setting the place staff can freely train their rights, obtain truthful wages, and work in secure and dignified situations. Solely then can we construct a sustainable trade that really advantages our nation and the individuals who energy it.

It must also be understood that when staff are susceptible and dealing with challenges in upholding their rights, and because the authorities is sure by guarantees to uphold staff’ rights, there may be nothing mistaken with the employees in search of help and solidarity from exterior allies to advertise and implement their rights. That is an appropriate observe worldwide.


As advised to Naimul Alam Alvi of The Every day Star.


Kalpona Akter is a labour rights activist and president of Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Employees Federation.


Views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal.


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