Under pressure, Dhaka may lift curbs on trade unions

July 7th, 2008 - 2:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, July 7 (IANS) Criticised at home and in countries that import its goods, Bangladesh’s military-backed government is set to partially lift curbs on trade unions. “We have requested the home ministry to allow limited trade union activities so that collective bargaining agents can hold their stalled elections,” Labour and Employment Adviser Anwarul Iqbal said Sunday.

Iqbal was briefing the media after a tripartite meeting on the draft child labour elimination policy. Dhaka has denied charges from Western nations importing its readymade garments and knitwear that it employs child labour.

The garment sector has witnessed frequent violence over non-payment of wages and bonus, which are low compared to international standards, and bad working conditions.

Political and trade union activity is banned in the state of emergency, which has been in force since January last year. However, Dhaka is gradually moving towards civic elections, with promise of parliamentary polls in December.

Campaigning for the civic polls is on and the government of Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed has assured lifting of more of them while engaging in talks with political parties.

Iqbal said a gazette notification relaxing the emergency rules would be issued soon. Labour leaders, however, demanded complete withdrawal of the ban on trade unionism.

Trade Union Centre President Mohammad Nurul Islam told the New Age that partial withdrawal of the ban on trade union activities just for facilitating stalled collective bargaining agents’ polls would bring no good to labourers.

He complained that trade union activity had been curbed even though it was the political parties, and not the trade unions, which were responsible for violence and turmoil during end-2006, early 2007.

Trade unions in Bangladesh, like most developing countries, are largely labour wings of political parties.

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