State Minister for Labour and Employment Md Mujibul Haque Chunnu on Tuesday said Bangladesh’s Export Processing Zones (EPZs) need some 4.50 million more skilled workers for its garment factories,
“We’ve already selected 1,200 women from impoverished areas, including northern areas of Kurigram and Lalmonirhat districts, to provide them skill development training in collaboration with the World Bank,” he said.
Chunnu was addressing the opening session of orientation programme at a city hotel for the officials of the newly-registered trade unions in the readymade garment (RMG) industry with focus on freedom of association.
The three-month long training programme, to be jointly organised by the National Coordination Committee for Workers’ Education (NCCWE), IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), and International Labour Organisation (ILO), will start in July.
The programme aims to sensitise the participants on the concept of freedom of association, collective bargaining, and other related issues in the context of Bangladesh.
Presidents and secretaries of over 140 newly-registered trade unions of the RMG sector attended the daylong programme along with a number of senior leaders from RMG trade union federation.
Chunnu said the country’s garment industries were built in an unplanned way during the 1980s, but the government has taken initiatives to restructure those in a planned way.
As part of this plan, the government has already allocated 550 acres of land in Munshiganj to build a garment village, he said.
The state minister called upon the leaders of the newly-registered RMG sector trade unions to acquire knowledge about their rights. “You must work in the interest of the workers ensuring their 100 percent rights.”
The changes in registration process as well as the Labour Law in 2013 have created an opportunity of establishing more and more trade unions in the RMG sector, he said.
Chunnu said the government has been encouraging the workers to come forward and avail themselves of this opportunity for positive and sustainable changes in the RMG sector.
Addressing the function, ILO deputy director Gilbert Fossoun said the formation and registration of the new trade unions is a sign of a new era of collective bargaining and freedom of association in Bangladesh, which can play as a catalyst for positive changes in other industries.
He hoped that trade unions and social organisations of ILO would work together.
In his presidential address, Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar said trade unions have now been formed in only 140 garment industries but around 3,460 still remain out of the trade unionism as the owners fear that their factories would be ‘closed’ if it is allowed.
He asked the trade union leaders to function in a way so that the owners could feel that the production in their factories would increase following trade unionism.
Shiper hoped that the number of the country’s garment industries would go up to 10,000 while that of new skilled workers would stand at 6 million by 2020.
Srinivasa B Reddy, Country Director, ILO country office for Bangladesh, Roy Ramesh Chandra, Secretary General, IndustriALL Bangladesh and Md. Zafrul Hasan, chairperson, National Coordination Committee for Workers Education, among others, addressed the function.