The government will now allow workers of export processing zone factories to form trade unions.
This decision followed repeated warnings from the European Union to the Bangladesh government to make some progress in the implementation of workers’ rights or to risk having its GSP facilities cancelled.
Currently, the EU is the single largest export destination for the ready-made garments manufactured in Bangladesh.
At present, Bangladesh enjoys duty-free market access to the EU countries for all products under the Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential tariff scheme.
Also Read- EU warns Bangladesh of GSP suspension over labour rights
A suspension of this facility could lead up to 12% tariff on imports from Bangladesh.
At a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, held at the Secretariat yesterday, the Cabinet discussed whether trade unions would be allowed in the EPZ factories.
This was disclosed to reporters by a Cabinet member after the meeting concluded.
He said Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed had raised the issue at the Cabinet meeting and had requested that the amendment of the existing labour law be withdrawn from parliament for further amendment of the law.
Also Read- EU wants uniform labour standard in and outside EPZs
According to the Cabinet member, Tofail had also said if 50% of the members of the Workers Welfare Association of the EPZ factories consented to registering as a trade union, then the WWA would be allowed to register under Ministry of Labour and Employment as a trade union.
The Cabinet member also said the prime minister had mentioned that the US had already cancelled GSP facilities and that she was not interested in getting those facilities back.
He further quoted the prime minister as saying: “I am confident that we will overcome the GSP problem with the EU.”
Also Read- EU wants trade unions in EPZ
On March 18 this year, three European Commission bodies sent a joint communiqué which said it was essential that the Bangladesh government implement the four recommendations made by an International Labour Organisation committee last year, or risk being shut out from the GSP that it enjoyed.
Subsequently, on March 24, the European Union had repeated this warning to the government.