The Cabinet on Monday provisionally approved a proposal to amend the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 that also aims at ensuring the workers personal security, organisational safety, increase in gratuity facilities, health services and their rights, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters.
The approval was given on principle at the regular Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
He said that the law proposed inclusion of provisions to have collective bargaining agents (CBA) in large organisations and ‘participatory committees’ in the small ones.
“It was mandatory to submit a list of names of the trade unions to the owners in line with the current Act which caused many problems. But it won’t need to be done after the Act is amended,” Bhuiyan added.
If the new law is passed in Parliament, a worker in the job for more than 15 years at an organisation would get gratuity equal to one and a half months of salary every year. Currently, the workers get gratuity equal to one month’s salary after they complete one year at the workplace.
The proposed Act also says that a factory with more than 5,000 workers must have a clinic with proper facilities to provide healthcare services to the workers. Alternative measures should also be kept if there are fewer numbers of workers.
The big buyers of Bangladeshi textile products have long been urging the readymade garment entrepreneurs to improve workplace environment and ensure the rights of the workers to form trade unions. The government was also under pressure to retain the duty-free access of Bangladeshi apparels to the US market.
The Cabinet Secretary said that the new law puts priority on personal safety and security of the workers providing specific directives about the building structure, safe stairs and exit, power connection and other utility services.
For garment workers, the law proposes separate rule to constitute a welfare fund under a panel or board. A separate board will be formed to this end, Cabinet Secretary Bhuiyan said.
The cases on a breach of the law will be heard at the Labour Court, District Magistrate’s Court or Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court.
The new law proposes six months of imprisonment and a maximum fine of Tk 25,000 for obstructing investigations into violation-related cases.