Roundup: Bangladesh allows welfare unions in special economic zones after factory building collapse

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, July 7, 2014
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The Bangladeshi government has approved in principle the draft of a law for economic zones that includes the provision to allow workers to form welfare unions to bargain for their rights.

The approval for "Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act-2014" draft came at the regular cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair on Monday.

Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters that the draft has been made after consultation with all stakeholders in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) which accommodate 431 industrial units under operation while 134 are under implementation.

Investors from over 40 countries including Bangladesh, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, and the United States have invested in the eight EPZs, enjoying a large number of fiscal and non-fiscal privileges.

Since its inception, the EPZs has bagged investment worth over 3 billion U.S.dollars while the number of employment at the EPZs totaled 384,644, according to the BEPZA (Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority),which has been placed directly under the country's Prime Minister's Office and was set up by an act of parliament in 1980 to woo particularly foreign capital and technical know-how and thereby boost exports through the establishment of export- oriented industries in special zones with special facilities.

The approval to the draft law came about a year after the government decided to allow garment workers in factories outside EPZs to form trade unions without prior permission from their factory owners.

Bhuiyan said all workers in factories in EPZs will elect leaders of the welfare unions every year.

Worker recruitment, job conditions, facilities during maternity period, workplace environment, work hours, wages, labor court formation have also been incorporated in the draft, he said.

Bangladesh in May last year eased trade union laws to allow the country's millions of garment workers to form trade unions without prior permission from factory owners.

More than a fortnight after Bangladesh's worst industrial tragedy that left 1,130 confirmed dead, Hasina's cabinet gave on May 13, 2013 final approval to Bangladesh Labor (amendment) Act 2013.

In the aftermath of Bangladesh's worst industrial tragedy, questions raised about safety standards and the laxity of the enforcement of these standards by government authorities.

Thanks to its cheap labor, Bangladesh is now the world's second largest garments exporter after China, producing global brands for customers around the world.

The tragedy revived questions about the commitments of factory owners and their global buyers to provide safe working conditions in the garment export sector with a annual revenue of about 20 billion U.S. dollars, The garment industry comprises some 5,000 factories and employ more than 4 million workers, 80 percent of whom are women. Endi

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