Bangladesh: New Evidence of Systematic Labor Rights Violations Reveals Government Inaction
New evidence of workers’ rights abuses in Bangladesh across three major economic sectors – garments, shipbreaking and leather – reveals the impact of government inaction on the lives of workers.
The report, released ahead of the government’s final progress report to the ILO’s governing body next week, shows the human face of a government’s failure to put in place labor protections.
Interviews with workers in October and November 2021 show the systematic rights violations, exposing:
- unfair labor practices;
- anti-union discrimination;
- dangerous workplaces;
- violence against workers; and
- non-payment of wages and benefits.
Workers lack a safe complaints mechanism, and asking for grievances to be resolved often results in verbal and physical abuse by the employer and dismissal.
“The Bangladesh government’s obstruction and refusal to improve conditions puts workers’ lives at risk. Every day they delay reform commitments, another worker and the worker’s family feel the pain of inaction.
“As the Government of Bangladesh prepares to brief the ILO Governing Body on the progress of reform, anti-union discrimination, wage discrimination and unsafe working conditions continue to be reported in three of the largest employment sectors of the country – ready-to-wear, shipbreaking and leather (tanning) sectors,” said Sharan Burrow.
Biplob, a 40-year-old garment worker, was one of eleven union members blindfolded and abducted days after gaining union membership; the kidnapping was an attempt to intimidate the workers of the newly formed union.
Shampa, 27, was threatened with dismissal when she applied for the maternity benefits she had been promised.
Zaman, a 49-year-old leather worker, said workers laid off during the pandemic have found their jobs but no longer have permanent contracts.
The ITUC calls on the government of Bangladesh to:
- improving job security;
- defend the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining;
- introduce a national minimum wage;
- secure workplaces; and
- eliminate harassment, discrimination and abuse against women workers.
“The Government of Bangladesh must immediately put in place a transparent and effective follow-up mechanism for the implementation of the ILO Roadmap and meaningfully consult with the tripartite constituents on all action points,” said Sharan Burrow.
The ITUC has identified ten areas of inaction by the Bangladeshi government against which it must report progress in March 2022.
- When tripartite follow-up or advisory committees were to be set up, the preconditions for meaningful and productive consultations or effective follow-up were non-existent, including a published schedule of meetings, convocations, a list of issues and supporting documents. relevant information.
- Occupational health and safety arrangements for export processing zones have not been adopted and EPZ authorities still have power over labor inspectors and OSH officers, contrary to ILO Convention 81 ILO and in the face of reports of occupational accidents and fatalities.
- Labor inspection systems are under-resourced and staff have not been recruited in sufficient numbers.
- Independent trade unions are still denied registration and face discrimination.
- No measures have been taken to combat anti-union discrimination, unfair labor practices and violence against workers.
- There is no database of complaints of anti-union discrimination, unfair labor practices and attacks on unions.
- A long backlog of labor disputes remains, with growing complaints of corruption and unfairness to the justice system.
- The security forces show growing intolerance towards the exercise of trade union rights and activities.
- Police and other security forces were not held responsible for attacks during the 2016 and 2019 Ashulia protests, and the government failed to launch an independent investigation as recommended by the Freedom Committee ILO trade union.
- There is no mechanism in place to provide regular information to workers about their rights and how to file complaints and access legal assistance in the event of violations.
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