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UN committee implores Bangladesh to improve labour conditions for workers

By Vivian Hendriksz

Apr 6, 2018

London - The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has urged the government of Bangladesh to fight for decent wages for all workers, revise its labour laws and to speed up the adoption of its national employment injury scheme.

After the Committee reviewed the self-assesments submitted by Bangladesh government on March on its compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, it started its conclusions this week which contained strong recommendations to improve workers' rights in the country, wages, labour legislation and employment injury insurance, reported the Clean Clothes Campaign.

The UN committee recommended that Bangladesh "raise its minimum wages to ensure a decent living for all workers and their families" and worked to reduce the gender pay gap. The minimum wage for workers in the garment industry, the majority of which are women, is just 5,300 BDT per month (52 euros). Unions are pushing to triple this amount to 16,000 BDT (157 euros) to ensure a fair and living wage for workers.

Concerning labour legislation, the committee stressed that the Bangladeshi government should "revise the Bangladesh Labour Act" to ensure that its labour laws emcompass the whole industry, including the informal economy and Export Processing Zones (EPZs). The UN committee calls for an independent and effective labour complaint mechanisms and strengthened labour inspection mechanisms, as well as a revision of procedures and requirement for trade union registration.

The committee also recommends that the government "promptly and thoroughly investigate all reported cases of discrimination, harassment, intimidation and dismissal against trade union activists and effectively guarantee trade union rights; and bring the perpetrators to justice and provide victims with adequate remedies."

In order to ensure that all workers involved in a workplace incidents receive proper compensation for any injuries and treatment, the UN committee is calling on the government of Bangladesh to speed up its commitment to adopt a national employment injury insurance scheme. This will "ensure that all victims of occupational accidents and their families are provided with adequate compensation, which should include, as a minimum, necessary medical treatments for their physical injuries and psychological trauma."

Since the Rana Plaza factory collapse five years ago, which saw more than 1,130 workers killed, garment workers have continued to die or be injured in smaller workplace incidents. However, in the absence of a national employment injury scheme, they have largely remain uncompensated. The government of Bangladesh committed to creating such a national scheme back in 2015 and is to be established by 2020. But, for the sake of the victims and the families involved ,it is vital that the government speeds up the implementation of the system.

"The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ conclusions confirm many of the concerns and demands raised by the ILO, Global Unions and Human Rights Organisations about the lack of progress in Bangladesh," said Ben Vanpeperstraete, Lobby and advocacy coordinator for Clean Clothes Campaign, in a statement. "Workers are in dire need of wages they can actually live from and those involved in factory incidents cannot continue to wait in dire poverty for compensation. Furthermore it is high time that the Bangladesh government make good on its commitments to improve its labour legislation and guarantee workers’ right to join or form a Union of their own choice."

Photo: Courtesy of the Clean Clothes Campaign