Bangladesh approves stronger labour law

Featured South East Asia - July 16th, 2013

Bangladesh Monday passed a “historic” law on employees’ rights and workplace safety in the wake of a factory building collapse that killed over 1,100 people in April.

Under the new law approved by parliament, millions of workers will be “ensured full trade union rights”.

This means workers, including those in factories making clothes for Western retailers, no longer need approval from factory owners to form trade unions.

Insurance for workers is now also mandatory while structural changes are strictly prohibited without permission from government inspectors.

The overhaul follows the devastating Rana Plaza building collapse in April that spotlighted alarming workplace conditions and the lack of labourers’ rights.

The disaster, one of the world’s worst, also spurred widespread scrutiny of factories across the country amid global pressure to improve labour laws in Bangladesh.

Local union leaders said they were studying the new legislation, whether their concerns were addressed.

“Otherwise this legislation will be a futile exercise,” labour leader Wajedul Islam told AFP.

Last week, some 70 retailers, mainly from Europe, announced a safety plan for Bangladesh factories, while US and Canadian retailers announced a separate pact, amid concerns of a consumer backlash over the tragedies, AFP reports.

The US has also cancelled Bangladesh’s trade privileges, saying the country has not done enough to ensure workers’ safety.