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May Day: Who will ensure workers' rights?

Published : Sunday, 6 May, 2018 at 12:00 AM  Count : 229

Md Mazadul Hoque

Md Mazadul Hoque

Since worldwide exploitation of workers in many ways has been the fashion to the owners and proprietors of manufacturing factories apart from corporate houses, it is high time to remove this notorious practice done by them creating mass awareness and taking collective initiatives by the deprived billions workers in the month of May of every year for which the international workers await for the day as they are allowed to raise voices against malpractice in the work places as well as to establish rights.

The countries belonging to least developed categories and developing countries are lagging behind still to ensure justice towards the workers of different professionals. Very few factories, offices of above stated countries are rarely seen to maintain international standard compliances set by United Nations' agencies for the upgrading life standard of workers who discharge their prescribed duties and responsibilities in their work places despite facing multiple problems.

The right to seize the right of labour force in the working zones is one of the key objectives of this so-important day. If Bangladesh, a newly recognized developing country can ensure pro workers practice in every work places, the vision of becoming developed country by 2041 might be possible as the wheel of economy is at the hands of labour force, no doubt.

In recent times before starting the piece there are many questions arising that how we move forward or create good image in terms of economic performance snatching the workers' right. Thousands of workers faced manifold injuries and premature death while on duty in the workplaces but no fair judgment from state level is noticed.

It is a must say that every developed countries in the world have been able to fill up workers' demand by hook or by crook for the interest of their economy. It is important to note that Bangladesh is running forward with having boom economy status with its poor skilled labour force and in recent time the country gained the eligibility of being middle-income country by next 2021 thanks to contribution of wage earners working in different industrial units but injustice towards them from concerned authority is a common scenario which is yet to resolved for the interest of country's economy.

The fate of labour force working globally goes uncertain due to deprived of required facilities and manner from, competent authority.  Sadly speaking work zones in the country have turned ferocity places for the workers as well as service holders for years due to the absence of proper monitoring which should be done by the state level watchdogs. If silent torture is being carried out with the workers continuously, the production might be faced setback in coming days resulting in hampering global trading leading the economy backward.
Labour participation in production sector is decreasing day by day since workers while in working in any plants face a number of numerous problems and ultimately they are obliged to leave the works and returning to their village home, they start to begin cultivation. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics ( BBS) revealed in its 2015-2016 quarterly Labour Force Survey report that of total labour force in the country 39.9 per cent in service sector, 20.5 in industrial sector, 42.7 per cent in agriculture sector are engaged.

It is a must say that discrimination in terms of working hours has been a common practice. In light of experiencing years-long discrimination faced by the workers dissatisfaction among them is growing. The BBS disclosed that around 47 hours in rural area, 51 hours in urban area, and 56 hours in City Corporation area of a week where 41 hours in agricultural sector, 55 hours in industrial and service sectors weekly are being practiced, the BBS study showed which is completely unfair in view of labour law.

Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 ( ACTXL of 2006) said five to seven hours for adolescent and eight hours for adult workers in day had been fixed. But no establishment authority abides by the rules incorporated by the government. Maintaining of framed working hours to corporate houses operated in the country are rarely observed resulting in increasing exploitation. Financial as well as security facilities of the workers for overtime working are rarely seen in the factories and corporate houses.   
In our country, the workers are fully dissatisfied over the poor wages. To meet the demand of the wage earners is very difficult with this so-little income. They have to live from hand to mouth with what they earn. Their life standard never goes up to the mark. Apart from the payment system for the workers is not created unique in the country.

Payment mode must be brought under umbrella. BBS study said around 55.1 per cent in monthly basis, 8.3 per cent in weekly basis, 35.1 per cent in daily basis and 1.6 per cent in others mode are made payment to the workers which bring owes to their life due to absence of due time of wages and compensation payment. Sexual harassment apart from beating, shouting, insulting done by the supervisors towards the workers. According to the data the number of sexually abused cases are 4.7 per cent, physically beaten 7.5 per cent, shouting and insulting 83.4 per cent and others 4.4 per cent.

In terms of abuse industrial sector has placed in first position. Industrial sector has gained 43.4 per cent abuse record where service sector recorded 37.1 per cent and agricultural sector 19.5 per cent according to the BBS website. The abuse cases go unreported. Immediately after experiencing any kind of abuse if the victim wants to seek justice to higher authority or law agencies, he or she is shown threat by a section of muscle power people.

It is a matter of concern that even after 47 years of achieving independence the workers have not yet gained full-fledged freedom in the work places. The under aged girls and boys are still allowed to enter the apparel factories to attach with works denying labour law without justifying fitness certificate which is a must according labour law. Is it descent to look? The tender aged workers both male and female in the factories premises are locked with sexual activities resulting in increasing child marriage in the area. There is no monitoring authority to look after them whether the workers of all ages are doing good or evil works within working hours in the establishments' compound.

Soon after the First World War, founded in 1919 International Labour Organization ( ILO), only tripartite United Nations agency  which is working in global arena for eradicate injustice and improve living and working conditions of labor force since inception. The presence of ILO monitoring in work zones where thousands workers are involved in production  activities apart from corporate houses in developing and least developed countries where workers face numerous troubles like Bangladesh.

There grows urgent need from the workers to arrange a sharing session with ILO top functionaries right now to remove discriminations faced by them in work places. Otherwise, the dissatisfaction would aggravate among workers resulting in global turmoil at any time. 

The state has a role to stand by the workers in weal and woe with adequate supports from the structural level like food corners, required number of physicians for first aid, fire extinguishers, fire fighters, toilet facilities specially for women, supply of drinking water, separate working zones for male and female apart from ensuring banking and insurance facilities.

To set up temporary labour court in the factory premises for hearing and executing complaints lodged by victims might be introduced. Those workers face untimely death just after joining the work, their spouse or adult children must be given permission for works. Moreover, breast feeding corner for women workers ought to be ensured. Above all, if the rules and regulations incorporated by ILO are maintained properly, the workers' voice to ensure justice in the work places on May Day was not viewed. The burning issue regarding materialization of workers' right has been a dream to me and nothing else.

The columnist is executive officer of Social Islami Bank Ltd

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