Industrial Relations and Labour Policy Seminar in Bangladesh

JILAF and the Bangladesh Council of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-BC) jointly held a two-day industrial relations and labour policy seminar in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on December 14–15, 2014. The seminar was attended by 75 Bangladeshi trade union leaders and others.
At the opening, addresses were given by JILAF Executive Director Hisashige Danno; Satoru Ogasawara, assistant head of the business management department of Japan’s Zenrosai Kyokai (National Association for Workers’ Welfare and Cooperative Insurance); Secretary-General Farooq Ahmed of the Bangladesh Employers’ Federation (BEF); and, from the local organizer, ITUC-BC President Abu Zafar and Secretary General Chowdhury Repon. Among them, BEF Secretary-General Farooq expressed appreciation for the holding of the seminar on the basis of trilateral government-labour-management cooperation and added, “We shall cooperate fully in bringing the more than 80% of domestic workers employed in the informal economy into the formal economy.” ITUC-BC President Abu Zafar expressed gratitude for JILAF’s cooperation so far and said to the participants, “The ITUC-BC consists of six organizations with different political ideologies, but we will take united action for the protection of domestic workers.”
JILAF Executive Director Danno then delivered a lecture titled “Social and Economic Development and the Role of Trade Unions,” in which he said, “As the international division of labour advances in the form of the transborder movement of capital, and the world’s growth engine shifts to Asia, there is a strong need in Bangladesh also for a quality labour force. I hope that the ITUC-BC campaigns to establish constructive industrial relations in companies setting up operations in Bangladesh.”
In the afternoon, Naohiro Tsukamoto, head of Zenrosai Kyokai’s survey and research section, gave a talk on the mutual aid insurance business in Japan, in which he explained the ideas of mutual aid, such as ownership by subscribing union members, and its function of supplementing public social security and encouraged the participants to establish a mutual aid organization in Bangladesh. In the question-and-answer session, the participants asked about such matters as the difference between mutual aid insurance and ordinary insurance, the characteristics of mutual aid cooperative members, and pension benefits.
ITUC-BC President Abu Zafar then gave a talk on industrial relations and workers’ welfare. Stating that the ITUC-BC would campaign to formalize informal-sector workers, who account for about 85% of workers in Bangladesh, he also said that it was necessary for workers to study laws and employment contracts more in order to build constructive industrial relations. Furthermore, President Abu Zafar expressed his determination to promote action toward the establishment of mutual aid organizations in order to improve the welfare of workers.
As the final event on the first day, Sadik Rahman, an officer in the Department of Cooperatives of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development, and Cooperatives, gave a talk on legal conditions and other specialist matters involved in the establishment of cooperative societies in Bangladesh.
On the second day, the participants divided into three groups on industrial relations, employment, and mutual aid (cooperative societies) for discussions followed by presentations on each topic to everyone. Each group identified issues and made proposals. For example, the group on industrial relations pointed to (1) trade union hostility and the disparaging attitude of employers toward unions in the ready-made clothing sector; (2) the existence of multiple trade unions in the same company and struggles between unions; (3) price increases and low wages; and (4) delayed payment of wages. The group on employment mentioned (1) the adverse impact of the unstable political situation in Bangladesh on direct investment from overseas; (2) the shortage of highly skilled industrial human resources; and (3) the lack of knowledge among workers regarding employment contracts. And the group on mutual aid (cooperative societies) cited (1) the need for cooperation among likeminded people; (2) the fact that cooperative societies have the function of helping poor people; and (3) the need to study about laws relating to cooperative societies and management methods.
In response to the presentations by each group, JILAF Executive Director Danno made an appeal to the participants, saying, “What Bangladesh needs now is an independent and self-supporting mechanism of mutual support, such as mutual aid organizations. I want you to enthusiastically tackle the task of building organizations by yourselves and for yourselves that will provide necessary services at the necessary time.” Executive Director Danno then wrapped up the two-day seminar by adding, “I hope that you will establish sound financial foundations based on income from union dues in order to build constructive industrial relations in companies and consolidate mutual aid organizations, such as cooperative societies, in order to protect informal-sector workers.


12/14SunSeminar day 1
12/15MonSeminar day 2

Photos of the Participants

Lecture by ITUC-BC President Abu Zafar

Address by BEF Secretary-General Farooq Ahmed

Lecture by JILAF Executive Director Hisashige Danno

Lecture by Naohiro Tsukamoto of Zenrosai Kyokai

SGRA photo exhibit at the venue

Participants observed a minute’s silence for victims of Bangladesh’s war of independence ahead of Victory Day on December 16.