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‘Workers’ Minimum Rights not Guaranteed in Bangladesh’, Global Report Finds

More than 4.5 million workers are employed in the readymade garments sector in Bangladesh. However, these workers are barred from joining any trade union or organisation of any kind, the ITUC report noted.
Labour rights in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the ten worst countries in the world in terms of ensuring labour rights. Here, workers' rights are severely violated, workers' minimum rights are not guaranteed. This was claimed in a report titled 'The Global Rights Index-2022' published by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on June 26.

The right of workers to strike; the right to establish and join a trade union and obtain licenses, arbitrary detention-arrest, and the right to justice - the report is based on a survey of 148 countries on these four issues.

Apart from Bangladesh - Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Myanmar, Philippines and Turkey are the other nine countries that have failed to implement labour rights.

According to the ITUC report, major obstacles to ensuring labour rights in Bangladesh are backward labour laws, barriers to trade unions, and police violence against workers.

Further, more than 4.5 million workers are employed in the readymade garments sector in Bangladesh. These workers are barred from joining any trade union or organisation of any kind.

According to the report, the industrial police in Bangladesh suppressed the strike with extreme brutality. Where baton charges, tear gas, and sound grenades, including rubber bullets, were fired to disperse the workers where many workers are killed. Many workers are detained without guilt but do not get justice. Workers are also deprived of the right to peaceful protest in the pursuit of their demands. They were even widely fired and subjected to criminal prosecution, the report said.

According to the index, workers in 113 of the 148 countries have been denied the right to form or join trade unions – which is about 77%. Of the 148 countries surveyed, authorities in 74% of the countries have blocked the registration process of unions.

Bangladesh's industrial owners have said they have no objection to a responsible trade union. But the owners of Bangladesh are reluctant to accept the ITUC's report on labour rights. Denying the report's claim, they say it is an international conspiracy against Bangladesh. As a result, the bargaining power of the workers will be further reduced in order to get a fair share of labour.

In an interview with the media, Mohammad Hatem, Executive President of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), termed the ITUC report as false and said, “The report was made by a foreign fund. It is a part of an international conspiracy of a group. The purpose of which is to create an unstable situation in Bangladesh and create obstacles to the development of our country's industry.”

He added that the formation of trade unions is not the only solution to protect the rights of workers because there is a lot of evidence to ensure rights and other benefits without unions.

Mohiuddin Rubel, Director of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told the media, "We generally give priority to the ILO's report on labour rights and other related issues. Any private or specialised organisation can publish the report as they wish. But we don't think that the report has any real information. These reports are for special purposes.”

"The government in Bangladesh has done everything for the welfare of the workers, including amending the labour laws, and we are implementing it," he added. The report is completely baseless, and there is no chance of accepting it. He alleged that many competing countries were involved in publishing the report.

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