by Syful Islam
American Reporter Correspondent
July 8, 2004
UNDER U.S. PRESSURE, BANGLADESH MULLS UNION RULES
DHAKA, Bangladesh-- The government of Bangladesh has introduced a bill in parliament seeking limited rights to trade unionism in exclusive industrial zones after faced pressure from from American labor unions to adopt them or lose trade concessions. The bill is to be reported out of a parliamentary committee tomorrow, sources said.
The proposed law will allow workers in the export processing zones, or EPZs, to enjoy rights to trade unionism after Nov. 1, 2006.
Under the EPZ Trade Union and Industrial Relations Act of 2004, an elected labor representative and welfare committee will run their affairs until that time.
The committee will be empowered to furnish legally valid agreements with respective managements. The trade unions in the EPZ would be free of political affiliations.
The government put the bill up for discussion after the United States threatened valuable trade preferences if Bangladesh fails to introduce trade unions in the EPZs.
Law Minister Moudud Ahmed piloted the bill in Jatiya Sangsad and the speaker sent it to the parliamentary standing committee on the law ministry for further vetting, telling them to report back to the parliament, or Jatiya Sangsad, within 10 days.
The minister said uncertainty of all sorts over such an important legislation is ended. He said the government had been in a dilemma over the issue of trade unions in the EPZs because of pressure from retailers and strong opposition from their major investors.
The AFL-CIO and the Office of the United States Trade Representative have long been pressing Bangladesh to introduce workers'rights to trade unions in the industrial units. The law minister said if the bill was passed, it would protect the interests of investors and workers and would help boost productivity in the EPZs. Some 136,000 workers are now employed in six EPZs.