Representatives from national and international workers rights groups spoke on the occasion
Owners of various business houses in Bangladesh have joined hands to curtail the rights of workers and suppress their voices and demands, though they are the prime contributors to growing the country’s economy.
“Government and business are united on various issues. Workers are helpless to raise their voices or demand their rights as owners always remain powerful.”
A dialogue on “Business and Human Rights: Perspective Bangladesh,” jointly organized by Nagorik Uddyog, and the Safety & Rights and Business and Human Rights Resources Centre was held at the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) auditorium in the capital on Wednesday. Representatives from national and international workers rights groups spoke on the occasion.
“Workers in different industrial sectors, including the ship breaking industry, are in dire circumstances. There is no ambulance service to attend to workers for any medical emergency. The situation drives many workers to death,” she said.
With the country heading towards digitalization, many new businesses are being established and set up, and various problems are also becoming apparent. However, government and business should be more responsible in safeguarding worker rights, Rizwana Hasan added.
“Doing business is very easy in Bangladesh because business owners can evade tax, VAT, even gas and electricity bills. Business owners are now political leaders. They are in the national parliament too,” some leaders from worker rights groups said.
“Some foreign business people do not comply with labour laws to gain more profits. We demand reform of labour law article 26 because business owners lay-off their workers without any reason on the strength of the article,” she further said.
Zakir Hossain, Chief Executive of Nagorik Uddyog, said: “The country is flourishing economically day by day. Its GPD growth is stable but the contribution of workers is not being accepted. Even the issue of human rights has not been considered yet.”
Business and Human Rights Centre UK’s representative, Priti Darooka, said “business organizations must be accountable to the responsibility of the people of the state so that the protection of workers and related environment is possible.”
“Bangladesh is a country with potential. Therefore, if the United Nations announces guiding principles for government to protect and implement human rights in businesses, it will ensure economic growth, as well as labor and consumer satisfaction,” she also said.
Soren Albertsen, Sector Counsellor at the Danish Embassy said, “The labour market is an important playing field for establishing and supporting fair and stable conditions at the workplace. Eventually, workplace activities may also have a positive influence on other parts of society, that would prepare Bangladesh for the “next development phase." . He saw this as important for capacity building at all levels.
"Continued growth will most likely be dependent on the ability to maintain sustainable structures both at the workplace and in society at large. In this respect the Danish Embassy is, among others, handling two important labour market projects.
"One is a Social Dialogue Project (SDIR) implemented by the ILO and cofounded by the Danish and Swedish Embassies. This project educates not only employers and employees in constructive conflict resolution, but also supports the ministry in its efforts to develop guidelines and concepts for dialogue and negotiation," he added.
He further said: "Another project is about the Danish Labour Authority sharing knowledge, tools and methods with local DIFE labour inspectors. Ultimately the project is expected to result in a stronger DIFE and good and safe working conditions in factories. Also, in this latter case, MoLE and DIFE management is heavily involved in order to cooperate at many levels. The recent upgrade of DIFE and its inspectors (draft labour law) is a good example of the Bangladeshi support for this government to government cooperation.
"Business and human rights is an important topic because everything is linked: business with sustainability, and growth with stability."