The second meeting of the Central Roundtable (RT) for the SGRA project (Supporting Grass-Roots Activities through the International Employers’ and Workers’ Network) took place on Monday, November 20, 2017.
At the beginning of the meeting, ITUC-BC Acting President Mojibur Rahman Bhuiyan (secretary general of Bangladesh Mukto Sramic Federation [BMSF]) asked for a moment’s silence by everyone present in memory of the victims of a terrorist attack on a restaurant in Dhaka in July 2016. Speaking on behalf of the organizers, JILAF Deputy General Secretary Ryo Saito then said that Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Kono had visited the site of the incident recently, the first Japanese government minister to do so, and placed flowers there. He appealed for the restoration and stability of public security so that such appalling incidents never occur again.
JILAF Deputy General Secretary Saito then explained the objectives of the RT meeting and stressed that, as well as the earnest efforts of related persons, the public security situation has an enormous impact on both the livelihood improvement and uplifting of informal-sector workers, who cannot escape from the lowest poverty line, and the continued development of the project. He called on the Bangladesh government and others to continue taking steps to restore public security.
JILAF Deputy General Secretary Saito also outlined the state of progress in the project in the current fiscal year (results, achievements, etc.) and expressed his appreciation for the role of the Central Roundtable in steering the project and for the dedicated efforts of the SGRA cooperatives (shomobae shomitee) in each region.
The main results and achievements included the following:
(1) The organization of 185 new network members (for an accumulated total of 1,189) and, on the initiative of six SGRA cooperatives, the implementation of vocational skill development training for new network members (personal computers, sewing, mobile phone repair, etc.)
(2) The holding of a job fair for existing network members by the Bangladesh Employers’ Federation (BEF): It has been decided to hold a job fair in Chittagong on December 6–7.
(3) The networking of a minority ethnic group in Chittagong (the Mongolian Chakma indigenous tribe)
Next, a representative of the SGRA project in Bangladesh looked back on SGRA cooperative activities in each region, and the participants confirmed that two new SGRA cooperatives in Bogra and Chittagong had completed government registration (bringing the total to eight SGRA cooperatives).
Regarding the occupations covered by the cooperatives, both the Bogra (46 members) and Chittagong (57 members) target agricultural workers and rickshaw drivers.
Bearing in mind these developments, on the assumption of continued grants from the Japanese government in the next fiscal year, JILAF Deputy General Secretary Saito proposed a future project plan, which, after mutual discussion of the following matters, would be finally confirmed at the third RT meeting scheduled to be held on January 11, 2018, ahead of an international tripartite meeting of government, labour, and management representatives from the four countries where the SGRA project is being implemented.
(1) Optimization of cost-effect performance in the face of limited budgets (continuation of activities led by the eight SGRA cooperatives)
(2) Strategy for continuation after the end of grants from the Japanese government (collection of dues from SGRA cooperative members and involvement of national centers)
(3) Fundamental change in the duties of the Central Working Group (lifting of role as link between the Central Roundtable and Regional Working Groups and administrative supervisor of the RWGs and concentration on such matters as the establishment of SGRA cooperatives in Dhaka)
(4) Utilization of a handbook summarizing information on efforts so far and existing network members (separate circular)
(5) Establishment of report lines from the RWGs and SGRA cooperatives to the RT
The participants also confirmed the composition of the Bangladesh delegation to the meeting of government, labour, and management representatives from the four countries where the SGRA project is being implemented to be held in Katmandu, Nepal, on February 22–23, 2018 (one management, one government, and two labour representatives).
In addition, it was decided that, as representatives of the RT, ITUC-BC Acting President Bhuiyan and an SGRA local representative would attend the job fair for existing network members to be held by the BEF in Chittagong in December.
Finally, ITUC-BC Acting President Bhuiyan summarized the discussions that had taken place at the RT meeting, and the meeting ended with all the participants declaring that they would strive together to further strengthen and develop the project.