Industrial Relations and Labour Policy Seminar in Bangladesh

Moment’s silence at the seminar for the victims of the terrorist attack on a Dhaka restaurant

 JILAF, together with the Bangladesh Council of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-BC), jointly held an industrial relations and labour policy seminar in Dhaka on November 23–24 on the theme of “Building Sound Industrial Relations and Employment Stability.” The seminar was attended by 53 trade union leaders (including 9 women and 2 participants from trade unions at Japanese companies). In addition, speakers from Japan’s Zenrosai Kyokai (National Association for Workers’ Welfare and Cooperative Insurance) spoke about Japan’s experience in the operation of a mutual-aid system by labour and management aimed at improving the livelihoods of workers. Following the terrorist attack on a restaurant in Dhaka in July, in which Japanese lost their lives, the seminar was held after a request for maximum security was made to the law enforcement authorities through the local organization.

 The seminar consisted mainly of sessions on (1) trade unions and industrial relations in Japan, (2) the role of trade unions in improving the livelihoods of workers, and (3) the formation and registration of trade unions. Through group discussions, presentations, and other activities, the participants shared information about issues that trade unions should address.

 At the beginning, ITUC-BC General Secretary Delwar Hossain Khan called for a moment’s silence by all participants in respect for the victims of the terrorist attack on a restaurant in Dhaka in July of this year.

 Next, ITUC-BC President Tofazzal Hossain (president of Bangladesh Sanjukta Sramic Federation [BSSF]), speaking on behalf of the government, labour, and management in Bangladesh, expressed sincere gratitude for the continued support and cooperation of JILAF and the Japanese government, adding his appreciation to JILAF for returning to Bangladesh so soon after the July incident.

 JILAF Deputy General Secretary Ryo Saito then gave a lecture titled “Constructive Industrial Relations in Japan and the Prevention of Futile Industrial Disputes.” The participants shared recognition that amid the increasing complexity of industrial relations as a result of globalization, the building of Japanese-style industrial relations would be beneficial for both labour and management. They also expressed opinions and asked many questions about such issues as (1) labour legislation that ignored workers (and emphasized employers) and the mechanism of industrial dispute resolution; (2) the tendency of employers to belittle and begrudge trade unions; (3) violation of the human rights of women and migrant workers; (4) the unfair distribution of profits to workers in the sewing industry (the obligation to pay some corporate profits to the government, etc.); and (5) the definition of regular and nonregular workers in Japan. JILAF Deputy General Secretary Saito gave pertinent replies on behalf of JILAF, adding once again explanations about the building of trust and constructive relations between labour and management based on the three guiding principles of productivity and the separation of collective bargaining and labour-management consultations.

 After that, Mr. Satoru Ogasawara and Mr. Kunihiko Shimazaki, head of the survey and research department and mutual-aid insurance department, respectively, at Zenrosai Kyokai, spoke about Japan’s experience in the mutual-aid business and other topics from the perspective of workers’ welfare. In particular, they explained about such issues as the spirit of mutual aid, the efforts of labour and management, and the ownership of subscribed members and encouraged the participants to strengthen mutual-aid organizations in Bangladesh. Questions from the participants focused on (1) the relations of Zenrosai with RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) and the Japanese government; (2) the breakdown of Zenrosai’s subscribed members; (3) the difference between mutual aid and insurance; (4) the mission and role of Zenrosai and labour banks; (5) whether or not individuals and foreign residents can subscribe to Zenrosai; (6) thinking about investments and premiums and security; and (7) the gender ratio among Zenrosai members and the appointment of women directors. The Zenrosai Kyokai speakers gave pertinent replies to these questions.

 The first day of the seminar ended with a lecture by a local speaker on employment and industrial relations in Bangladesh and the present state and issues of cooperative societies.

 On the second day, ITUC-BC General Secretary Khan gave a talk on the current state of the labour movement in Bangladesh and issues and solutions toward the building of sound and constructive industrial relations, after which the participants divided into three groups (mixing the six national centers) to discuss and then make mutual presentations on the theme of “Toward the building of constructive industrial relations and the protection of workers.”

 The points raised by the groups included (1) the need to improve hostile industrial relations by fostering the contribution of trade unions toward productivity and the understanding and cooperation of employers for the building of constructive industrial relations; (2) for that purpose, the introduction of labour-management consultations; (3) the establishment of a roadmap for the unification of the national centers; (4) the organization of workers (especially women) and informal-sector workers (inclusion in trade unions) and response of the ITUC-BC to the government (social dialogue, etc.); and (5) the need to revise labour legislation to respect the core labour standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO) (especially Conventions No. 87 and 98). An executive director of the ITUC-BC (general secretary of the Bangladesh Mukto Sramik Federation [BMSF]) and others gave pertinent replies.

 In connection with (4) above, JILAF Deputy General Secretary Saito expressed his appreciation to the participants for their enthusiastic participation in the two-day seminar and concluded by saying, “In order to build constructive industrial relations in companies, it is important not only to build relations of trust with employers but also to have close communication with union members in the workplace on a daily basis. In addition, from the perspective of labour-management equality and autonomy, it is important to have further links among the national centers and to establish financial foundations based on the collection of union dues.”


11/23WedSeminar day 1
11/24ThuSeminar day 2

Photos of the Participants

Lecture by JILAF Deputy General Secretary Saito

Lecture by Mr. Ogasawara of Zenrosai Kyokai

Group work