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Worker Worries

  • Published at 09:53 pm August 11th, 2016
Worker Worries

Q. “I am the manager of a factory and have always tried to maintain a cordial and pleasant environment amongst my workers. Recently, however, my workers have been restless and (thanks to a few troublesome individuals) they have been threatening me with the formation of Trade Unions, strikes, and god knows what else. My management skills are being called into question, and my boss has asked me to prevent this at any cost. Is there any legal remedy available for me?”

Dear Reader

Thank you for writing in to us. It can indeed be worrying when factory workers retaliate with threats of trade unions and strikes, and it is understandable that your boss would wish to nip this in the bud. Whether, however, you can legally restrict the formation of trade unions in your factory, is a different matter. I will explore that below and also provide some additional relevant information, which may be helpful to your situation.

According to S.175 of the Labour Act 2006 as amended in 2013, ‘worker’ is defined as “unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context, ‘worker’ means any person including an apprentice employed in any establishment or industry, either directly or through a contractor known in whatever name, to do any skilled, unskilled, manual, technical, trade promotional or clerical work for hire or reward, whether the terms of the employment be expressed or implied, but does not include a person employed mainly in the managerial or administrative ‘supervisory officers’ capacity.”

Therefore, it is just an assumption that the majority of the workforce employed at your new factory premise (with the exception of the selected few appointed in a managerial or administrative ‘supervisory officers’ capacity) will fall under the definition of worker and thus, the provisions of the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 and Amendment Act 2013 will be applicable for them.

Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 strongly supports the rights of workers to form Trade Unions and these provisions are covered within Section 176 of the Act, which states:

(a) workers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to form trade union primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workers and employers or workers and workers and, subject to the constitution of the union concerned, to joint trade union of their own choosing;

(b) Employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right form trade union primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between employers and workers or employers and employers and, subject to the constitution of the union concerned, to join trade union of their own choosing; and

(c) Trade unions of workers and employers shall have the right to form and join federations and any such union and federation shall have the right to affiliate with any international organization and confederation of worker’s or employers organization.

(d) Trade unions and employers’ associations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organize their administration and activities and to formulate their programmers;

(e) Wherever a trade union is formed in an establishment, if there is 20 percent of the total workforce are female at least 10% of female members shall be included in the executive committee to the union.

Provided that those unions, which are registered under this Act, shall be guided by the same.”

Section 176 also stresses on the proportion of female workers which must be mandatorily included during the formation of the Trade Union. Not sticking to this mandated provision will put the legal status of the Trade Union at risk.

It is also necessary for a trade union to be registered in order to successfully validate its legal status. The necessary requirements for trade union registration are covered in Section 179 of the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006, which states that:

A trade union of workers shall not be entitled to registration under this chapter unless it has a minimum membership of (30%) thirty percent of the total number of workers employed in the establishment in which it is formed.”

Therefore, in order to establish a Trade Union, a “minimum membership” of 30% of the total workforce is required. It is also worth mentioning that, although the new factory premise will have several wings, all of the separate workforces from all the wings together will be held to be one large workforce and “deemed to be one establishment”.

To answer your query in brief, you will not be able to ‘prevent’ your workers from forming or joining a Trade Union. You can however, monitor that they adhere to the requirements of the law to form a trade union and, if this proves too cumbersome for the workers, they might choose to avoid it altogether. Also, mutual dispute resolution discussions always help!

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