Bangladesh and International Labour Organization
ILO will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019.
The organisation is a UN agency working to ensure a decent working condition setting international labour standards, developing policies and devising programs all over the world. It was established in 1919 as an agency of the League of Nations.
The ILO has announced its a global campaign named "Taking the ILO to the people" which will highlight 25 topics that concern people's daily lives, from gender equality and youth employment to climate change and artificial intelligence on the occasion of its Centenary.
This tripartite organization is working with a total 187 member States now. It has adopted 189 conventions so far which are binding on member States along with numerous recommendations, protocols, plans etc.
Bangladesh has ratified 35 ILO Conventions including seven fundamental Conventions. The organisation has worked to develop labour legislation and supervision of policy implementation in Bangladesh in a tripartite way. Bangladesh has become a member of the ILO in 1972.
The ILO opened its office in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 25 June 1973 to progress the implementation of ILO policies. Bangladesh has a large number of unskilled or semi-skilled labour force numbering has a large and cheap labour force of around 60 million, comprised of 40 million agricultural jobs and 20 million non-agricultural jobs. This workforce is engaged in RMG, agriculture, building and construction, service, transportation, dock, ship breaking and other sectors.
The ILO has had great success to create influence in the adoption and reformation of labour legislation in Bangladesh. The Labour Act, 2006 has changed the labour conditions of Bangladesh in respect of so many aspects. Labour Courts and Labour Appellate Tribunals have been specially established by this Act to dispose of labour disputes promptly.
But this Act is exclusionary legislation.
It has excluded all the informal sector workers in the definition clause. Thus this Act has applicability to only 15-20% sector belonging to the formal sector.
ILO, European Union, World Bank, International Chamber of Commerce, foreign buyer groups have an active role to influence the government of Bangladesh to incorporate many of the labour rights in this Act.
Bangladesh has also amended the labour laws time to time, especially, after the tragic Tazreen Fashion factory accident, Rana Plaza collapse etc. facing a consistent pressure from ILO and other ILO allies.
The Labour Rule has also been made in 2015 supplementing the Act. Bangladesh government had a consistent pressure from ILO to reform her labour legislation dramatically which was accomplished in the last decade. The constant work as a pressure group of the ILO has helped the employers and employees to work as helping hands of each other.
Some special labour laws have also been legislated. Amongst which the Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act, 2013, Domestic Worker Protection and Welfare Policy-2015 (Draft), Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act, 2018, Road Transportation Act, 2018 etc. are in frontier line to focus these sectors especially.
Like other countries, ILO supervises its convention and policy implementation regularly in Bangladesh. ILO has launched 30 more projects in Bangladesh covering working conditions, skills, knowledge and employability, safety and health at work, child labour, freedom of association and collective bargaining etc. which are been followed up by the ILO time to time.
Till date, almost 80%-85% of the informal sector has remained out of the legal framework. Child labours in various sectors are considerably working in hazardous works. Formation trade union and collective bargaining agents are largely absent in formal sector let alone informal sector.
Labour Courts, Labour Tribunals, Inspectors are not easily accessible to the workers. Reports show that the rate of filing a suit in case of grievance is below 5%. This can never repudiate the role of the ILO to make a decent, fair and equitable working condition irrespective of gender.
Last two decades were significant in terms of labour legislation and their implementation.
But on the ILO Centenary in this year, Bangladesh has to comprehend a huge number of informal workers into a legal framework. The more the ILO can work to advance with the government of Bangladesh, the more productivity of resources will be increased which will lead Bangladesh to attain the very Vision 2021.
Md. Jahedul Islam is pursuing LLM student at the University of Chittagong