Workers and owners of industrial units under Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority would enjoy their rights according to the Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act, 2019, according to a statutory regularity order issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday.
The SRO said that employment of workers, relations between workers and employers, determination of minimum rates of wages, payment of wages, compensation for injuries to workers during working hours, and health and safety issues in Export Processing Zones or Economic Zones would be determined as per the EPZ labour act.
The order stipulated a provision for the EPZ labour act saying the act would be applicable for the owners and workers of industrial units of country’s all Economic Zones under Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority.
Abolishing the EPZ Workers Welfare Association and Industrial Relation Act, the government has passed Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act, 2019 in February.
Although the government brought changes in many areas of the previous law, the International Labour Organisation Committee of Expert observed violations of conventions related to freedom of association and right to form or join a union.
Labour leaders also opposed the government’s decision of bringing workers of all economic zones under EPZ labour act and said that the move would deprive workers from their fundamental rights.
They said two type of laws for the workers were not acceptable in a country rather it was discriminatory.
‘We are always against the EPZ labour act. A uniform act should be introduced for all workers. Why the workers in EPZ and outside of the EPZ would be treated differently,’ Wajed-ul Islam Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Trade Union Centre, told New Age on Saturday.
He said there were severe violations of ILO convention 87 and 98 in the existing laws of Bangladesh.
‘I will request government to bring all the workers under a single act with ensuring full rights as per the ILO conventions,’ Wajed-ul Islam said.
Salahuddin Shapon, former secretary general of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, said introducing two types of laws for the workers in a single country was nothing but violation of human rights. ‘I thing Bangladesh Labour Act should be applicable for the workers and owners of industrial units in proposed special economic zones and other new economic zones otherwise minimum rights of workers would not be protected,’ he said.
Salahuddin said under the EPZ labour act, workers would not be able to raise their voice.
Recently, a number of member countries have filed complaints in international forums against Bangladesh government about violation of ILO conventions and proposed to form commission of inquiry against the country.
At the concluding session of International Labour Conference held in Geneva of Switzerland in June, worker delegates of Italy, Pakistan, South Africa, Brazil and Japan complained that Bangladesh was not following the ILO convention 87 on freedom of association and right to organise, the convention 98 on right to organise and bargain collectively and the convention 81 on labour inspection.
In the complaints, the member countries alleged that workers were denied fundamental rights in export processing zones as the new law was not consistent with the ILO conventions.
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