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Govt forms committee to face EU Compact review on labour issues

The government on Tuesday formed a working committee consisting of factory owners, labour leaders and government officials to assess the status of labour issues raised by the ILO and the EU and to find out ways to address the concerns collectively. The labour ministry formed the committee in a meeting of its Tripartite Consultative Council held at the Bangladesh Secretariat in the capital, a month before the review meeting of European Sustainability Compact which is scheduled to be held on May 18 in Dhaka. According to meeting sources, the committee was formed mainly to highlight that some progresses are being done before the Sustainability Compact meeting. ‘We have formed a working committee consisting of factory owners, labour leaders and government officials headed by additional secretary to the commerce ministry Tapan Kanti Ghosh to address the labour issues in line with the Sustainability Compact and the International Labour Conference,’ labour secretary Mikail Shipar told New Age following the meeting. He said that the 56th meeting of TCC was held without any agenda but many issues including generalised system of preferences in the European Union market, review meeting of the Sustainability Compact, special paragraph provided by the International Labour Organisation were discussed. He said the working committee would assess the present status of the ILO special paragraph and find out ways to address the issues as the EU also recommended Bangladesh to address the issues raised by the ILO. Following the Rana Plaza accident, which killed more than 1,100 people, mostly readymade garment workers, the EU, the United States, Canada and Bangladesh adopted the Sustainability Compact and the initiative provided an action plan for Bangladesh to improve its worker safety and rights. Recently, the European Commission has warned Bangladesh of suspension of the GSP because of violation of labour rights and freedom of association and recommended that the special paragraph of the ILO be implemented. The commission urged Bangladesh to implement the recommendation of the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards including amendments to the Labour Act to address the issue relating to freedom of association and collective bargaining. It also demanded that labour organisations in the export processing zones be allowed to form or join labour organisations outside of the zones and all acts of anti-union discrimination be investigated. The EU wants to see remarkable progress before the 3rd Compact follow-up meeting which will take place on May 18 and International Labour Conference to be held in Geneva in June. One of the labour leaders said that the issue of trade union rights for the EPZ workers, amendment of Labour Act and simplification of trade union registration process were discussed in the TCC meeting. Tapan Kanti Ghosh, convener of the newly-formed working committee, said that they were yet to confirm about the jurisdiction of their work. ‘I think the committee will work mainly to find out ways how to face the Compact review successfully as the EU market is important for Bangladesh,’ he said. The labour secretary said that they would finalise the position paper of the ministry for the Compact review in the next TCC meeting scheduled to be held on May 14. State minister for labour Mujibul Haque, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Md Siddiqur Rahman, Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad leader Wajed-ul Islam Khan, among others, attended the meeting.