Some key issues including the activities and capacity of a number of organisations involved in ensuring workers’ safety and rights and the process of registering trade unions formed by the workers of factories both within and outside the export processing zones (EPZs) are now being examined by a visiting ILO delegation, officials and sources said. As part of their assessment, the four-member delegation on Monday held meetings with the leaders of apparel makers and workers’ organisations. The high-powered delegation of the Direct Contacts Mission of the International Labour Organization (ILO) headed by Karon Moanghan, deputy High Court judge in the UK, is visiting the country to review labour rights and standards in Bangladesh, especially in line with its Convention 81 (labour inspection). It is reviewing the country’s efforts to ensure workplace safety and labour rights especially after the two tragic industrial incidents–Tazreen blaze and Rana Plaza building collapse. The team which arrived in Dhaka on October 17 has already held meetings with top officials of the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) and members of the standing committee on labour, Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) and leaders of Bangladesh Employers Federation (BEF), they added. During the meeting with the labour leaders, the delegation mainly focused on activities and capacity of DIFE as to whether the number of inspectors is sufficient, their role and areas of responsibility, Babul Akhter, secretary general of Industriall Bangladesh Council, told the FE after the meeting. “They also wanted to know whether we have confidence on inspectors. We also informed that the activities of inspectors, especially after the Rana Plaza collapse, have improved,” he said. The labour leaders recommended increasing the manpower at the DIFE and monitoring the issues related to trade union. ‘Though the inspectors’ areas of responsibility are quite large, they can not perform their role as many garment factory owners appear to be more powerful”, he said, suggesting that the inspectors be given more power to help them work freely. Regarding the labour court, the labour leaders recommended setting up of courts in each district in separate buildings, removal of bureaucratic tangle and faster settlement of cases. The delegation also discussed trade union (TU) registration procedures, and wanted to know whether the workers’ representatives practise their union activities freely, limitation and challenges of workers’ participation committee (WPC) in factories where TUs are absent, how the occupational health and safety committee would be formed and their role and trade unions in the country’s EPZs. “We opined in favour of trade unions in EPZs too”, said Nazma Akter, president of Sammilito Garment Sramik Federation. Faruque Hassan, senior vice president of BGMEA, said the team discussed overall audit system of factories, trade unions in factories both in and outside EPZs and wanted to know the reasons behind the workers’ migration from one factory to another. During the meeting with the MoLE officials, the team wanted to know about the government’s safety policy and implementation of the amended labour law and progress of recruitment of new labour inspectors, meeting sources said. “We informed the team that the government has already updated the labour directorate to a full-fledged department increasing manpower to 993 from 314,” DIFE Inspector General Syed Ahmed said. A total of 235 factory inspectors have been appointed, he said adding that they also presented the DIFE’s roadmap, inspection plan that prioritised readymade garments, construction, tannery, shrimp, ship building and ship breaking, tobacco, rice and jute mills, the ongoing inspection programme in the readymade garment sector, publicly accessible database on garment factory and inspection reports. The ILO team will again hold meeting with the top officials of the MoLE today (Monday) and is likely to discuss the outcome of different meetings, people who attended the meetings said. They said the ILO team might give a set of recommendations for Bangladesh to follow.