Friday, June 21, 2024

Govt works on act for EPZ labour rights

Draft in final stages
The government has plans to enact the EPZ Labour Act 2013 aimed at fully-fledged labour rights, including right to association and collective bargaining activities, that other workers enjoy outside the export processing zones. The move, with the draft of the law now being in final stages, has been taken as part of the implementation of a United States Trade Representative ‘action plan’ to revive GSP facilities that were withdrawn in June because of poor labour standards in apparel factories, both in EPZs and outside.
The secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office, Molla Waheeduzzaman, also convener of the seven-member working group set up two months ago to review the existing EPZ0related laws and to recommend further amendments, if any, in the past week put the draft into the final form, the officials said.
‘An act on labour issues with EPZ workers in focus is under process to introduce labour rights in line with the International Labour Organisation convention,’ Mahbub Ahmed, secretary to the commerce ministry that which coordinates the implementation of the US ‘action plan’ involving government agencies, told New Age.
The ministry is busy preparing a progress report on the implementation of the plan to be sent to the USTR by November 15 as sought by the US administration.
The report will be the basis for the USTR to decide whether the GSP facilities for the export of selected products from Bangladesh to the US market would be scrapped or suspension would continue beyond December, a trade official said.
The United States on June 28 suspended the GSP facilities for Bangladeshi goods entering the US market citing, amongst other things, the lack of workplace safety and shortcomings in labour standards in the apparel sector.
A fire in Tazreen Fashions in November 2012, leaving 112 workers dead and the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013, leaving at least 1,130 workers died, triggered the suspension.
The plan, in which the US administration asked the government to establish labour rights including allowing
Three specific conditions that the government need to
comply with are set out in the plan by way of which the US administration asked the government to establish labour rights, including the right to association of EPZ workers.
The government must ‘repeal or commit to a timeline to expeditiously bring the EPZ law into conformity with international standards so that EPZ factory workers could enjoy the right to association and to collective bargaining as other workers enjoy, according to the action plan.
The government also must issue regulations that, until the EPZ law has been repealed or overhauled, will ensure the protection of EPZ workers’ right to association and prohibit ‘blacklisting’ and other forms of exclusion from zones for labour activities.
‘Until the EPZ law is repealed or overhauled, [the government] will ensure transparency in the endorsement of the existing EPZ law and require the same inspection standards and procedures’ as in the remaining apparel sector.
‘We have decided to introduce fully-fledged labour rights for workers in the EPZs from January 1,’ a PMO high official told New Age.
The draft of the law is expected to be placed before the cabinet soon for approval, the official added.
EPZs are now governed by the BEPZA Act 1980 and the EPZ Labour Welfare Association and Industry Related Act (Amendment) 2010.
The special economic zones have been kept out of the purview of existing labour rights, especially the right to association as set out in the Bangladesh Labour Law 2013.
Section 81 of the EPZ Labour Welfare Association and Industry Related Act (Amendment) 2010 states that there is a bar on enforcing programmes such as strikes or lock-out in EPZ factories.

Courtesy of New Age

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