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Workers’ Rights


Soma Islam*

This year saw a strong workers’ movement, enactment of The Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 (Bangladesh Shromo Ain 2006) and fixation of minimum wages for the Ready Made Garment (RMG) workers. This chapter identifies the State’s commitment to promote workers’ rights under international conventions, the Constitution and national laws including the new Labour Act 2006. After a general discussion on the discrimination faced by different categories of workers in the organized and unorganized sectors and by migrant workers, it discusses the major events in the struggle of the RMG workers for their rights during the year. Finally it makes recommendations for maintaining healthy labour relations. [1]

Legal Framework

Bangladesh’s commitments to promoting workers’ rights devolve from its ratification of several international treaties, the Constitution and national laws. However, the application of these laws has been poor and the State’s investment policies have derogated in many cases from workers’ rights.

International Commitments

Bangladesh ratified the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights in 1998, with reservations placed on Articles 1,2,3,7 and 8. [2] The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, 1998 (86 th session) is also relevant. Bangladesh has ratified ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948, ILO Convention 105, on the Abolition of Forced Labour, 1957 and ILO Convention 182, on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999. It has signed but not yet ratified the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families in 1990.

Constitutional Guarantees

The Fundamental Principles of the State policy provided for in the Constitution relating to workers are to be found in:

  • Article 14, which requires the State to emancipate peasants and workers from all forms of exploitation;
  • Article 15, which holds the State responsible to ensure the right to work, that is the right to guaranteed employment at a reasonable wage having regard to the quantity and quality of work, and reasonable rest, recreation and leisure;
  • Article 20(1), which recognises work as a right and requires that, “everyone shall be paid for work on the basis of the principle from each according to his abilities, to each according to his work.”

In addition, the fundamental rights guaranteed in Chapter III, specially relevant to workers’ rights, include:

  • Article 34, which prohibits all forms of forced labour and makes it a punishable offence; and
  • Article 38, which guarantees the right to freedom of association and to form trade unions.

Statutory Framework

The Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 adopted by Parliament replaced earlier legislation, including the Factories Act, 1965 and the Factories Rules, 1979, which had established a framework for safeguarding workers’ rights and decent conditions of work in industrial establishments. [3] The new Act codified 25 labour laws and reaffirmed the rights of workers to:

  • Proper wages and benefits that ensure an adequate standard of living for workers and their families; [4]
  • Equal pay for equal work and non-discrimination; [5]
  • Regulated time of work and prohibition on forced labour or slavery; [6]
  • Safe, secure and healthy working environment; [7]
  • Fair compensation in cases of work-related death or injury; [8]
  • Right to organize trade unions for collective bargaining; [9]
  • Freedom of children from exploitation; [10]
  • Proper sanitation facilities, dining facilities, maternity leave, childcare facilities and human resource development. [11]

Whilst there are some positive changes in the Act, much of the legislation is almost identical to the previous laws. So, for example, the Act does not impose new legal obligations upon employers and others in relation to health, safety and welfare. However, the obligations will, under the new law, apply to a wider range of premises, and include new offences and stricter sentencing provisions with changes in the prosecution process.

Advances in Workers’ Rights

The major areas of workers’ rights which are protected by the new Act are given below. Many of them were already protected under the old laws.

Wider application of employer duties: The health, safety and welfare duties and obligations that were contained in the Factories Act, 1965 and which have now been placed in chapters 5 (health and hygiene), 6 (safety), 7 (special provisions with regard to health and safety, and 8 (welfare measures), applied only to ‘factories’. The new law, however, applies to ‘establishments’ which are defined widely to include shops, hotels, restaurants, cinema and certain kinds of offices (sec. 2(31), 2(41) and 2(61). In addition, there is no minimum threshold of number of workers employed by an establishment to implement health and safety measures. In contrast the Factories Act, 1965 only applied to factories employing over ten workers.

Appointment letters : The new Act provides for issuance of appointment letters and identity cards (sec.5) to workers and for maintenance of a service book (sec.6-8) and labour register (sec.9) in the factories.

Working hours, leisure, holidays and leave: An adult worker shall not work or be caused to work for more than eight hours a day (sec.100) and 48 hours a week (sec.102). The Act provides for overtime allowance (double the normal payment) if the workers are made to work up to ten hours a day, with an hour of leisure (sec.101) every day; and for adolescents to work not more than five hours a day in a factory or mine (sec. 41(1) or more than seven hours a day in other institutions (sec.41(2)) and not at all between 7 pm to 7 am. (sec. 41(3). The Act requires one day weekly holiday (sec.103), one day annual leave for every 18 working days (sec.117) and eleven days’ paid festival leave for RMG workers (sec.118).

The Act also requires employers to grant 16 weeks paid maternity leave (eight weeks before delivery and eight weeks after delivery) to female workers (sec. 46), on condition that the worker was employed for at least six months in the factory. Women having two or more children would not be eligible for maternity benefits (sec. 46(2)). If a working mother dies, maternity allowance would be given to her nominee for the benefit of the child (sec. 49). Employers are also required to pay workers for leave not enjoyed by them (sec. 11).

Prohibition on employment of children and adolescents: The Act prohibits engagement of children (not exceeding 14 years of age) and adolescents (over 14 years of age but not exceeding 18 years) in any profession or institution (sec. 34) without certification by a registered practitioner regarding his/her capability to carry out the particular work (sec. 34(2)(ka)). The Act prohibits engagement of adolescent workers in cleaning, lubricating or processing any machinery while it is in use (sec.39), to handle any machinery unless s/he is fully aware of the machinery and the precautions needed to handle the same (sec.40) and for underground or deep water activities (sec. 42). On completion of twelve years, children may be engaged in light work that is not hazardous to their health and physical growth and which does not disrupt their education (sec. 44). If the child workers are school goers their working hours have to be fixed in a way that their school time is not hampered.

Workers’ health and sanitation: Employers are required to maintain cleanliness in factories (sec. 51), ensure proper ventilation and temperature within factories (sec. 52), install dust exhausters (sec. 53), ensure adequate natural and electric light in the workplace (sec. 57), arrange pure drinking water for workers (sec. 58), and install adequate toilets and urinals separately for male and female workers

Safety and security in the work place: Employers to provide emergency exits (marked in red) with alternative staircases in every floor (sec. 62), install fire extinguishing equipment and adequate fire alarm system and arrange training on fire safety.

Workers’ welfare arrangements: The Act reaffirms the provisions in the previous legislation for the maintenance of first aid facilities (sec. 89) a safety record book (sec. 90), washing facilities (sec. 91), canteens (sec. 92), leisure rooms (sec. 93) and child care facilities (sec. 94). It requires employers to offer group insurance policies if employing more than 200 workers (sec. 99) and to establish a provident fund for workers in privately owned organisations (sec. 264) and tea estate workers (sec. 265). It also prohibits employment of women workers in night shifts (10 pm to 6 am) without their consent (sec. 109).

Enforcement of the law: In the past only factory inspectors could prosecute criminal cases. Sec.107 (1) of the Factories Act had stated that " no court shall take cognisance of an offence under this Act except upon complaints made by or under the authority of or with the previous permission in writing of, an inspector. " Under the new law, the right of prosecution has been given to a wider category of people, in particular an “aggrieved person or trade union.” The term ‘Aggrieved person’ is likely only to apply to the actual worker injured or members of the bereaved family (sec. 313). In addition new offences relating to death and injury, including death resulting from a failure to comply with the law, can result in a fine of Taka 100,000.0 or imprisonment of upto four years (sec. 309). In the past criminal offences under the Factories Act were prosecuted in the Magistrate’s court; now all prosecutions for offences must take place in the Labour Court under the CrPC. The move from Magistrates to Labour Courts (even though there are only seven in the country in four locations) is likely to be more positive than negative. However, more courts are clearly needed.

Workers’ participation fund and welfare fund: To ensure that workers share in the profits of a company, the Act provides for establishment of a Workers’ Participation Fund and a Workers’ Welfare Fund (sec. 234). A Company engaging at least 100 workers in any shift of the year and with a paid up capital of at least ten million taka and assets worth at least 20 million taka at the end of the financial year is required to establish these funds (sec. 232). Companies in this category are required to establish the above funds within one month from the passing of the Act and deposit five per cent of their net profit therein at a ratio of 80:20 within nine months from the year end (sec. 234). The Government, through an official gazette, can frame rules for participation of seasonal workers in the Workers’ Welfare Fund (sec. 250).

Minimum wages (sec. 140) are to be recommended by the Minimum Wage Board (sec.138), subject to review every five years (sec. 139 (6). In making recommendations, the Wage Board shall take into consideration the daily expenses and living standard of the workers; production cost, productivity and price of products; inflation; nature and quality of work; risks involved as well as the socio-economic conditions and other relevant conditions in the concerned area (sec. 141).

Formation of wage board for media workers: The Act provides for formation of a separate Wage Board for media workers (sec.143) which shall consider the cost of living and existing salary structure of workers in Government bodies, corporations and privately owned entities, the situation of the newspaper industry in different parts of the country and other factors as the Board may think relevant.

Compensation: The amount payable by employers in case of compensation for work place deaths and injuries has been increased to Taka 100,000.0 for deceased workers and Taka 125,000.0 for disabled workers (sec. 151).

Trade unions: The Act provides for formation of trade unions by employers as well as workers (chapter 13). Under section 179(2) a trade union cannot be registered unless at least 30 per cent of the workers of the concerned institution become its members. This Act further specifies that if an employer owns more than one undertaking with a common industrial objective, they shall be considered as one institution, irrespective of their locations. Before passing of the Act, 30 per cent membership of the workers of a single institution was required to form a trade union.

The Act provides for formation of a trade union by a cluster of institutions involved with activities such as private transport including rickshaw, private water transport, tailors and garments having less than 100 workers, tea estate and factory, jute bailing, leather industry, bidi industry, handlooms, hosiery, printing press, hotels and motels with accommodation for less than 25 persons, restaurants not being part of hotels, small metal industries, book binding, cinema and theatre (sec. 183). Workers of these cluster institutions can form trade unions if 30 per cent of the total workers of the said cluster agree to a trade union. If their constitution permits, they can allow individuals not working in the cluster to be elected as officials of their trade union. The Act also provides for formation of trade unions by civil aviation workers (sec. 184) and mariners (sec. 185).

Constitution of a National Industrial, Health and Security Council: The Act provides for constitution of a National Industrial, Health and Security Council headed by the Minister of Labour and Employment (sec. 323). Among others, the Council will be constituted by seven representatives each from the RMG employers’ association and workers’ associations. The Council is authorised to formulate national rules for ensuring a safe, secure, healthy and clean industrial environment, as well as guidelines to implement the national rules.

Equal pay for equal work: The Act provides that there shall be no discrimination in fixing the minimum wage for work of similar nature, quality or value for both male and female workers and no discrimination shall be made in payment on the basis of gender (sec. 345).

Information about the Act: Government officials, employers and trade unions are required to take steps to conduct training courses on the provisions of the Act (sec. 348), with the cost to be shared by the Government and employers (sec. 348(4)).

Although many of these rights are legally recognised, their implementation remains a far cry. While Government authorities do not monitor compliance properly, too often employers flout their legal duties and deprive workers of their rights guaranteed under the law.

Disadvantages for Workers

There was little debate preceding the passage of the new Act. The members of the opposition were not allowed to make comments on the Bill . MPs of the ruling coalition also did not discuss it, nor was it discussed in the Parliamentary Standing Committee. [12] The Minister for Housing and Public Works observed that the Bill was of public importance and drafting a new law would require a long time. Therefore, the Bill needed to be passed immediately to save lives of many people. The opposition’s proposal for taking a vote on the Bill was turned down and it was passed through voice vote. Many labour organisations criticised the new Act on the grounds that it would affect workers’ interests, as discussed below, and demanded its repeal.

Exclusion of workers in small farms and domestic service: Agricultural workers, employed on farms having less than ten workers (sec. 1(4)(a)), and domestic workers (sec. 1(4)(o) are excluded from the purview of the Act and so would not be able to claim basic rights such as minimum wages, limited working hours and holidays.

Fixation of retirement age at 57 years: Section 28 of the Act provides that a worker shall retire on completion of 57 years, lower than the current retirement age of 60 years of public sector employees. This means that many public sector workers are likely to be deemed to be retired as soon as the Act becomes effective. [13] However, section 28(d) of the Act allows employers to reappoint a retired worker for a further period on contract.

Prohibition of strikes and lock-outs in some factories: Strikes and lock-outs are not allowed for the first three years after commercial operation of new factories, or factories owned by foreigners, or joint ventures established with foreign investors (sec. 211(8)). This gives owners considerable leeway to evade implementing workers’ rights. It also deprives workers of their basic constitutional rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. [14]

Lenient penalties for owners in case of violation of certain provisions: Employers are liable for one year’s imprisonment or a fine of Taka 5,000 or both in case of non-payment of minimum wages (sec.289). The Act does not specify whether the employer will be required to pay workers the balance amount, being the difference between the amount paid to them and the minimum wage. Another provision imposes a penalty of Taka 5,000.0 on any employer who violates the requirement of granting sixteen weeks’ paid leave to pregnant women workers. There is a concern that this minimal fine will not act as a sufficient deterrent. [15]

Custody of service book: Employers, at their own cost, are to maintain a service book for each worker (sec.6 (1)), which will remain with the employer (sec. 6(2)). However, the worker may retain a copy at her/his own cost (sec. 6(6)). Workers have observed that the service book is an important document and the Act should guarantee that the service book be made available to the workers.

Non-application to Government and other bodies : Although, as stated above, the Act has wider application than previous labour laws, it does not apply to most Government bodies, nor to certain kinds of not-for profit organisations or educational and research institutions (sec. 1(4)).

Criminal Offences and Sentences

New criminal offences relating to violations of the Act that cause death or injury (sec. 309) have been included, with significantly higher sentences available. (See table X.1 below)

Table X.1: Changes in Offences and Sentences

Offence

Factories Act, 1965

Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006

Prosecution of Criminal Cases

Magistrates’ Courts upon complaint filed by Labour Inspector

Labour Court (sec.313.1)

Right of prosecution extended to aggrieved party

Violations causing death, grievous injury or other harm

Maximum Tk 1000 and Tk 75 for each additional day of contravention (sec.93)

4 yrs imprisonment +

Fine Tk 100,000 (sec.309)

Paid to injured or deceased rep.

2 yrs imprisonment +Tk 10,000 fine

Fine for contravention

Max Tk 1000 + Tk 75 for each day of contravention

6 months + Tk 2,000 fine

Selling or renting unguarded machinery

Tk 500 (sec.28)

3 months imprisonment +Tk 1000 fine (sec.208)

Failure to notify authorities of an accident causing serious injury

X

Tk 1000 (sec.80)

Other violations of health & safety duties

sec. 93

3 months imprisonment or Tk 1000 fine

Second time conviction

Double punishment (sec.95)

Double level of fine or imprisonment (sec.308)

Non-compliance of order of conviction

sec.104

6 months imprisonment or Tk 2000 fine.

Employment Policies

Bangladesh has adopted a two pronged strategy aimed to earn foreign exchange and create employment opportunities. Both objectives were promoted by encouraging overseas employment of workers and foreign investment in labour intensive industries within the country. The last two decades have led to a phenomenal increase in labour export as well as to the growth of the Ready Made Garments (RMG) industry. The third major employment sector has been the cultivation of shrimps for export.

Workers in these sectors have contributed significantly to foreign exchange earnings. In 2005-06, Bangladesh earned US $7.9 billion (gross) from RMG exports which constituted 75 per cent of its total export of US $10.5 billion. [16] Between January to November 2006, migrant workers remitted US $4.92 billion. [17] In addition, large numbers of workers in the informal sector have contributed to the country’s economic growth.

Despite their significant contributions to the economy, most workers have been deprived of their rights to “just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity.” [18] On the other hand, investors and employers have benefited from the Government’s liberal investment policies to maximise profits, and have often evaded their legal responsibilities.

Conditions of Work

Workers in the formal, organised sector are regulated by labour laws, which permit the formation of associations for collective bargaining. In contrast, those in the informal, unorganised sector do not fall under the purview of laws and are more vulnerable to exploitation. Since their conditions vary from one sector to another, their status is described separately under each industry/sector.

Most work places are not custom built and may not have safety equipment installed. Defaults in the application of safety measures, as given in the laws, have contributed to serious accidents in all sectors. According to a BILS report, in 2006 forty seven cases of accident occurred in the RMG sector, in which 25 persons had reportedly died and 346 were injured. Nine women workers were reported to be victims of rape, among them, three were killed after rape. Among the total killed nine were women and among the injured 201 were women.

Formal Sector

RMG workers: An estimated two million workers, of whom 80 per cent are women, [19] are reported to be employed in 4,250 RMG factories [20] across the country. In addition, another million are engaged in textiles and accessories industries (yarn, button, carton, etc.). [21] Most of the RMG factories are concentrated in Dhaka, Chittagong, Gazipur and Narayanganj districts.

Despite their contribution to the success of the RMG sector, the basic rights of workers have been neglected. For example, their minimum wage was fixed in 1994 under the Minimum Wages Board Ordinance 1961 at only Taka 930.0 a month. Thereafter, the minimum wage was not reviewed for another twelve years, in spite of legal provisions for review of wages by a Wage Board every two years. [22]

Wages of garment workers continued to be the lowest in Bangladesh. Even after the revision of minimum wages in 2006, operators were to be given Taka 1,662.0 and helpers Taka 1,200.0.

Kormojibi Nari conducted a survey in August 2006 [23] in 100 garment factories in Dhaka city. According to the survey, in 54 per cent of the factories, working time was from 9 to 12 hours, and in 45 per cent it was 16 hours. Only 30 per cent factories gave a weekly holiday and 31 per cent gave no holiday. If a worker remained absent due to illness, 76 per cent factories deducted a day’s payment from the worker’s monthly salary, 25 per cent deducted two days’ payment and 19 per cent deducted three days payment. Sixty three per cent of the RMG factories did not grant maternity leave to women workers who were therefore compelled to leave their jobs before child birth and join afresh thereafter.

In the RMG sector, workers do not enjoy rest, leisure or recreation as guaranteed under Article 15(c) of the Constitution. According to the above survey, in 93 per cent factories, workers were allowed one hour for lunch break. As 42 per cent of factories provided no dining space, the workers had to eat their lunch on the roof or on the stair well. Pure drinking water was not available in 68 per cent of the factories.

Public sector industrial workers: The public sector includes utility services i.e. electricity, gas, post and telecommunications, sewerage, roads and highways, transports, railways, public works, etc.; nationalised banks, financial institutions, insurance companies; Chittagong and Mongla ports; sugar factories; paper mills and other public sector industries. The minimum wages for public sector industrial workers was revised in April 2006 for the minimum scale that ranged from Taka 2,950 to Taka 4,500 and a maximum scale ranging fromTaka 3,900 to Taka 9,000, exclusive of other benefits. [24]

Jute and textiles workers: Bangladesh is one of the largest jute exporting countries in the world. Until 2005 there were 135 jute mills in Bangladesh, out of which 114 were functional and the remaining 21 were closed. [25] In 2005-2006 total earnings from jute exports amounted to Taka 22,280.627 million constituting 3.54 per cent of the total export earnings. However, labour relations in this industry are one of the worst in the country.

The industry employed 58,710 [26] workers until 30 June 2005. The convenor of the Bangladesh Sangjukta Chat, Suta o Bastrakal Sramik Federation (BSCSBSF) [27] claimed that they were excluded from national wage commissions in 1991, 1997, and 2006. [28]

Conditions of workers in the Government owned jute mills were also of serious concern. They suffered largely from arrears of payment, lay offs and non-payment of compensation. The BSCSBSF staged a hunger strike in Dhaka on 29 January, 2006 in support of their Ten Point demands which included fixation of Taka 3,000.0 as minimum wage in denationalised factories; no further privatization of nationalised industries; provision for group insurance for industrial workers; payment of wage arrears; equal wages and facilities for both public and private sector jute mills; re-opening of all closed mills; advance interest-free agriculture loans; amendment of anti-worker laws and withdrawal of false cases against union leaders. [29]

In 2005, in response to a question in Parliament regarding the non-payment of six months’ wages to 100,000 workers of eight state owned jute mills in Khulna, the Minister of Jute responded that these mills made a loss of Taka 12.9 million in eleven months during the last fiscal year, incurred a total of Taka 48.6 million bank loans and an accumulated loss of Taka 18,000 million. [30]

In January 2006, Bondhokrito Adamjee Jute Mills Ltd. Krishok o Khudra Pat Byaboyshayee Paonadar Samity (Association of Peasants and Small Traders of the shut down Adamjee Jute Mills) had blocked Dhaka’s main commercial area for an hour. They claimed that their dues from the mills stood at about Taka 440.0 million prior to the closure of Adamjee Jute Mills on 1 July 2002, of which B JMC had paid only Taka 330.0 million. They demanded payment of the remaining Taka 110.0 million.

The workers of the State owned Eastern Jute Mills in Khulna stopped work from 13 to 18 April 2006 and demanded their due payment. The workers had not been paid for 10 months. Retired workers of the State owned Platinum Jute Mills in Khulna also threatened demonstrations unless their dues were paid. Reportedly, during 28 January to 8 March 2004 a total of 643 workers, 21 staff and 14 officers were made to retire and given a golden handshake. Their Provident Fund and gratuity dues amounted to Taka 85 million. The Government paid Taka 49 million to the mill, out of which Taka 41.5 million was paid to the workers. The remaining Taka 7.5 million was used by the authorities. [31]

Tea Plantation workers: There are 163 tea estates and 114 factories in Bangladesh. [32] Most of the tea estates are concentrated in the greater Sylhet and Chittagong region. In 2005-2006, Bangladesh earned Taka 776.24 million in foreign currency from tea exports, which was 0.12 per cent of the total export earnings during the period. [33] Tea plantation workers of Bangladesh have been an historically deprived and disadvantaged segment of the society, their ancestors having been brought to this area by the British colonial authorities from Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. They continue to be deprived as workers and discriminated against on account of their ethnic origins. [34]

In 2001, the industry had 169,237 workers out of whom 51 per cent were women employed as day rated and month rated workers. The daily rate ranged between approximately Taka 25.0 to 27.0, whereas the monthly rate was between Taka 450.0 and 485.0. A person receiving Taka 500.0 or more a month is not classified as a worker and is deprived of workers’ benefits. In addition to cash payments, some rations are also provided at concessionary rates i.e. rice or wheat at Taka 1.30 per kg for a maximum of 3.27 kg per adult per week. For adolescents and children, [35] the ration is limited, respectively, to 2.45 kg and 1.23 kg per person per week. [36] According to another report, tea workers receive US $3.0 per week and have access to a limited quantity of food at subsidised prices which, “… puts them way below the international poverty line.” [37] Although the employers are required to provide housing, medical care and education facilities to the workers, they do not all do so.

Bangladesh Cha Sramik Union (BCSU) is the main trade union and collective bargaining agent of the tea plantation workers. In 2001, BCSU had 72,950 members, representing about 70 per cent of the regular workers. [38]

Informal Sector

A large number of the working population is engaged in the informal sector, in economic activities such as agriculture, construction, rice milling, poultry, fishing, transport and domestic service. Since this sector is beyond the purview of any laws, the workers are not able to press for any rights to minimum wages, standard working hours, compensation and so on. Their negotiating strength is very minimal and they face insecurity of tenure, as most of them are casual labour. During the lean agricultural period they have few income generation opportunities.

Agriculture workers: About 60 per cent of the population is directly or indirectly involved in agricultural activities. About 22 per cent of the national GDP comes from the agricultural sector, which provides employment for 28.2 million, including 7.01 million agricultural labourers. In addition, there are about 0.3 million commercial firms such as poultry, dairy, fishery and hatchery, nursery and horticulture firms, etc. About five million are engaged in poultry farming. Four million persons (14.03 per cent) in agricultural activities are landless. [39] These workers are mostly day labourers and remain unemployed during the lean period usually between mid-September to December.

Agricultural workers [40] do not receive minimum wages or other benefits from their employers. According to section 3 of the Agricultural Labour (Minimum Wages) Ordinance 1984, the minimum wage for agricultural labour per day should be equivalent to the price of 3.27 kg of rice. Section 4 of the Ordinance had recommended that a Council of Minimum Wages and Prices for Agricultural Labour be formed under to periodically review minimum wages, but no Council has been formed since the promulgation of the Ordinance in 1984. [41]

Construction workers: The Bangladesh Labour Force Survey 2002-2003 stated that 15.41 million workers, including 97,000 women, were engaged in this sector. [42] The growth rate of workers in this sector was 11.1 per cent for men and two per cent for women. The workers, mostly day labourers, are not organised. Women and children are employed as helpers and receive very little pay and work under risky conditions. In 2006, a total of 107 construction workers reportedly died and 195 were injured in work place accidents. They were unable to claim compensation following accidents that led to death or injury. [43]

Rice mill workers: One of the largest unorganised industries in Bangladesh, rice mills process about 27.8 million tons of rice each year and employ approximately five million workers. [44] Rice processing includes parboiling, drying and packing of paddy before milling. The rice mills are locally called chatals , in which workers do twelve hour shifts round the clock for Taka 15.0 to 16.0 a day. The workers are mostly women, locally called chatal konnyas . Wages vary in different locations: piece rates range from Taka 4.5 to 7.0 per maund (0.037 tons) of processed paddy or a daily rate of Taka 30.0 to 32.0. [45] In 2006, seven rice mill workers were reported to have died and 31 were injured in different accidents. [46]

Transport workers: In the public sector such workers are mostly regular employees, whereas in the private sector, drivers, helpers, conductors, checkers, etc., are contractual workers. According to The Bangladesh Labour Force Survey 2002-2003 , this sector engages 3,000,000 workers with a growth rate of 8.2 per cent per annum. [47] Private sector transport workers tend to be deprived of legal protection. In 2006, reportedly, a total of 30 transport workers died and one was injured. [48]

Media workers: About 10,000 workers are employed in both print and electronic media. They are poorly organised and often deprived of their basic rights including minimum wages. Most media workers do not have formal appointment letters as per Wage Board rules and cannot avail legal remedies following suspension. [49] According to a columnist, “Employers of only six out of more than 273 dailies in Dhaka pay wages fixed by the Wage Board.” Another ten reportedly partially comply with the Wage Board requirements. The news agencies, BSS and UNB complied fully with the Wage Board and BD News complied partially. The electronic media, on the other hand, does not observe the wage board recommendations. Among them only two reportedly follow standard corporate practices; whereas the rest are compliant neither with the wage board nor with standard corporate practice. The newly formed Sixth Wage Board, headed by Justice Fazlul Haque, former Advisor to the Caretaker Government, recommended a new pay scale with benefits for media workers as well as recreation leave, outfit allowance, risk allowance and provision of six copies of papers for the workers. This was awaiting Government approval. [50] The new Wage Board, among others, recommended recreation leave, outfit allowance, risk allowance and provision of six copies of papers for workers.

Fish workers: Commercial fishing employs about 1.04 million persons, and shows an annual growth rate of 23.2 per cent. [51] Bangladesh earns a significant amount of foreign currency through export of frozen fish and shrimp. During 2005-2006, Bangladesh earned about Taka 27,500.0 million from fish and shrimp exports, which was 4.37 per cent of its total foreign earnings during the period. [52] Out of this, the export of shrimps alone was responsible for Taka 24,070.0 million. Although the fish industry is growing rapidly, the plight of its workers remains unchanged. In 2006, a total of 509 fishermen reportedly died and 1,541 were injured due mainly to accidents. [53] Fatalities in this sector were more than half of all work place deaths and injuries in 2006.

Domestic Service: Women and children are engaged for various household tasks and child care in both rural and urban households. The number of domestic workers aged between six and 22 years was estimated at about 422,000. [54] Abuse of domestic workers by their employers include scolding, beating and sexual harassment. A study conducted by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) of several hundred domestic workers revealed that at least 17 per cent were sexually abused, 47 per cent were physically assaulted, 63 per cent were forced to work beyond their physical capacity and 83 per cent were scolded mercilessly. [55] In 2006, 35 domestic workers were reported to have died, 31 were injured and 13 were raped. [56] Domestic workers are very low paid and have to work for over 12-18 hours a day, usually seven days a week. They are not organised and are most vulnerable because they are isolated within the home. They have little or no access to legal remedies even in case of gross violations of their rights. [57]

Ship breaking: This industry engages about 20,000 workers in very high risk work and exposes them to serious health hazards. Ship breaking workers are very low paid, earning no more than Taka 70.0-80.0 per day. [58] In the last two decades about 6,000 workers were seriously injured and 400 succumbed to their injuries. [59] In 2006, there were fourteen reported deaths and five serious injuries. [60]

Migrant workers

They are the second highest foreign exchange earners. About five million workers and professionals are employed abroad, half of them in Middle Eastern countries. Many others are working in South East Asian countries, the USA, Europe and Canada. In 2006, about 0.4 million people left the country for overseas employment. [61] Most migrant workers are employed in construction, domestic work, garments or as unskilled workers.

Table -X.2: Number of workers recruited for overseas employment in 2006 [62]

Saudi Arabia

UAE

Kuwait

Bahrain

Malaysia

109,513

130,204

35,775

16,355

20,469

Exploitation by recruiting agencies

Migrant workers are frequently exploited by local and overseas recruiting agencies. About 800 recruiting agencies are members of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA). In addition, many more local and overseas agents work for these recruiting agencies. [63] According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), recruiting agencies are authorised to charge Taka 8,000.0 to 12,000.0 for group clearance fees for recruitment of skilled and unskilled migrant workers respectively. [64] There are also additional costs for passports, airfare, etc. In reality, however, recruiting agencies charge fees that are far higher than those prescribed by the Government. In case of travel to the Middle East workers often have to pay up to Taka 200,000.0 to the recruiting agencies while the Government authorised cost is about Taka 40,000 to 50,000.0. [65]

Recruiting agencies claimed that the additional charge is due to payments to middlemen, cost of sponsorship and sharp competition in the recruiting business. Earlier, the employers used to provide sponsorship and air fare for workers. Now the employers take advantage of the competition among the recruiting agencies, to sell sponsorships and reduce workers’ salary. The recruiting agencies hardly comply with the Government’s minimum salary requirements for sending Bangladeshi workers abroad. The workers do not understand the contract papers since they are in Arabic and in most cases remain with the sponsors. Recruiting agencies reportedly often provide fake contract papers quoting higher salaries and benefits. Workers are forced to work even in the most inhuman conditions to recover the large amount of money they have spent for recruitment and risk deportation without compensation if they voice their grievances. [66] A study [67] revealed that in Saudi Arabia some workers were paid SA Rials 350.0 per month (equivalent to US $ 93.32, from which the employer deducted Government levies on expatriate workers, which is illegal under Saudi laws. The Government of Bangladesh does not appear to have taken up these problems with the Saudi Government.

The major allegations against employers of migrant workers are wage exploitation, poor and hazardous working conditions and sexual harassment. Undocumented workers are highly vulnerable to abuse, and rarely seek assistance of the Bangladesh Mission.

In Building Towers, Cheating Workers, [68] Human Rights Watch reported that wages of Bangladeshi construction workers in UAE ranged from US $ 106.0 to US $ 250.0 per month as compared to the average per capita income in the UAE of US $ 2,106.0 a month. In September 2006, the UAE Government passed a law banning labour strikes and threatened to deport striking labourers. [69] This left no institutional mechanisms for advocating on behalf of the workers.

The National Labour Committee, a New York based rights’ organisation, documented the abuse of Bangladeshi women workers employed in garment factories in Jordan. Their passports were confiscated upon arrival and they were forced to work for 109 hours a week, for only two cents per hour instead of 50 cents. According tothis report 25,000 workers, mostly from Bangladesh, employed in 102 RMG units in Jordan were in virtual slavery. [70]

Another report found that Malaysia has recruited approximately 350,000 workers from Bangladesh. [71] Many had signed agreements at the work place with lower salaries than that agreed upon at the time of recruitment; they were also required to work more than eight hours a day without overtime pay and were discriminated against in terms of other benefits; they were required to pay RM 2,300 (i.e. US $ 654.61 ) to RM 3,000.0 (US $ 853.84 ) a year for a work permit, and for a Levy and Employment Provident Fund; They were often harassed by the police and local thugs are common abuses suffered by Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia. Sometimes, they were not compensated for their work place injuries, but could face deportation if they demanded compensation or insurance proceeds.

Child workers

According to The National Sample Survey, 2002-2003, a total of 7.42 million children below the age of 17 years were working in various sectors. Seventy per cent of them entered the labour market due to poverty. [72] Only six per cent were employed in the formal sector whereas 89 per cent worked in the informal sectors. They were often engaged in hazardous work. For example, according to a UNICEF estimate, in 2004 there were 10,000 child sex workers, but other estimates placed the figure at 29,000. [73] In 2003, BGMEA, the Department of Labour and ILO jointly inspected 2,200 factories with a view to eliminate child labour in the RMG sector. They found that less than one per cent of the factories surveyed employed child labour, which was a huge decline from 25 per cent children employed in garment factories in 1997. [74]

Garment Workers’ Struggles in 2006

The year began with the RMG workers reiterating their long overdue demands for safety and security in the factories, minimum wages commensurate with a minimum standard of living, adequate compensation for work place deaths and injuries as well as weekly holidays. The year saw many tragic incidents such as workers’ deaths resulting from a fire in the KTS factory in Chittagong or in police firing. Some progress was seen in the signing of important agreements, formation of a Minimum Wage Board and declaration of minimum wages.

The Jatiyo Garment Sromik o Shilpo Rokkha Moncho (JGSSRM) called a sit-in in front of the BGMEA on 1 February 2006 to press their five-point demands, which included fixation of minimum wages, ban on night work for women workers, appointment letters to all workers, granting of weekly holidays and investigation/trial into a worker’s death. [75] Their protests had been fuelled by the death of Panna, a worker of Titanic Productions Ltd., at Pallabi, Dhaka, reportedly as a consequence of being beaten by the security guards on 30 December 2005 on allegations of wearing a factory made T-shirt without permission. [76]

In May 2006, the frustration of RMG workers with the non-resolution of their demands resulted in widespread outrage. On 8 May, about 50 workers were injured in an attack by men allegedly engaged by the owners of Scandex BD Ltd. at Savar. The dispute resulted from a sudden reduction in piece rates for sweaters (from Taka 25.0 to Taka 9.30). The workers blockaded the Tongi-Ashulia road for two hours following the incident. On 11 May, workers of New General Apparels Ltd. of Gazipur stopped work and demanded payment of dues and salary increase. The agitating workers damaged windows and some machinery in the factory.

In May workers of FS Sweater Factory of SQ Group in Sripur, Gazipur, stopped work in support of their demands for back wages and overtime. The management appeared to reach an agreement, but on the evening of 19 May the police arrested two workers. To press for their release the workers brought out a protest rally which blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway and disrupted traffic. At one point, the police opened fire on the agitating workers which left one dead and eleven injured. The management filed charges against three workers and 80 other anonymous workers under sections 143, 323, 326, 307, 379, 407. Some of them were arrested by the police. These actions instigated workers’ protests which spread to other garment factories. [77]

On 22 May, eight garment factories were ransacked and set on fire, allegedly by workers, at Savar and in the Savar Export Processing Zone (SEPZ). Many vehicles were also damaged. Rana, a worker of Nasir Garments Ltd., succumbed to bullet injuries fired by a security guard. The SEPZ Authority closed 67 factories. The owners claimed a loss of Taka 4,000 million as a result of these incidents. The Government deployed the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Bangladesh Rifles and police to control the situation while the RMG owners demanded deployment of the army to guard their factories. On 24 May, following the Government’s assurance about meeting workers’ demands and formation of a Minimum Wage Board, the agitating workers withdrew their blockade.

MoU between Government, BGMEA, BKMEA and Workers’ Representatives

On 11 June 2006, BGMEA, BKMEA and Jatiyo Garment Sromik o Shilpo Rokkha Moncho (JGSSRM) reached a memorandum of understanding (MoU) whose main provisions were the declaration of minimum wages within three months, issuance of appointment letters, identity cards, granting of weekly holidays and maternity allowance in accordance with the labour laws, giving overtime allowance for work exceeding eight hours per day, and allowing workers to form trade unions. The MoU also provided for BGMEA and BKMEA factories to improve their health clinics and negotiate with the Government for housing facilities for workers. After signing of the MoU, the workers withdrew their strike.

On 12 June, the Government, BGMEA, BKMEA and the Sromik Kormochari Oikyo Porishod (SKOP) executed a ten point MoU, which provided for withdrawal of cases filed against workers in Gazipur, Savar, Tongi and Ashulia Police Stations after the 22-23 May incidents, release of all arrested persons; issuing letter of appointment and identity cards to the workers; allowing trade unions to operate; granting one day weekly holiday and other holidays in accordance with labour laws; paying overtime allowances and paid maternity leave; and formation of a Minimum Wage Board. On 22 June, the Government, BGMEA, BKMEA, SKOP and representatives of 16 labour organisations reached another agreement, which reflected provisions of the MoUs executed on 11 and 12 June 2006.

Minimum Wage Commission for RMG industry

A six-member Minimum Wage Commission was formed in June. On 12 September, more than three months after it was established, the Commission proposed a minimum wage of Taka 1,620.0. The workers’ organisations rejected this and demanded Taka 3,000. On 5 October, the Commission, amidst protests from labour organisations, revised the proposed minimum wage for seven grades starting at Taka 1,662.50 with the highest at Taka 5,140.0 for Grade-1 workers. The Garments’ Sromik Shongram Porishod rejected the revised minimum wages and called strikes on 10, 15 and 16 October. They argued that Taka 4,286.0 was required to meet the basic needs of a family. The employers, on the other hand, observed that it would be difficult for the employers to pay the declared minimum wage for the seventh grade of workers. [78]

Fire in KTS and other RMG Factories

On 23 February 2006, a deadly fire broke out in KTS Textile and Garments Ltd. in the BSCIC Industrial Estate in Chittagong, in which 65 workers died and over 150 were injured. Within a month, fires broke out in eight more garment factories in Chittagong. A BGMEA executive alleged a conspiracy behind such frequent accidents. [79] He observed that Base Textiles Ltd. and Creaslan Sweater Ltd. were strictly compliant factories; hence he saw no cause for fire accidents in these factories. He also observed that rumours spread about fire in Tisun, Intimate and Charulata Garments created panic among the workers, which resulted in injuries during a stampede. ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury, Mayor, Chittagong City Corporation amongst others, demanded proper investigations into the many fire incidents in factories within a short period of time.

PIL by Sromik Nirapotta Forum

The Sromik Nirapotta Forum, a coalition of 17 rights-based organisations that came together following the collapse of Spectrum Garments Ltd. at Savar in April 2005, filed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking justice for the victims of work place deaths and injuries resulting from the negligent conduct of the factory owners. [80] The Forum urged that concerned employers and relevant Government departments be held responsible for enforcement of safety and security measures in garment factories and for proper compensation to affected workers. The High Court issued a Rule Nisi calling upon the respondents to show cause as to why they should not be directed to take necessary actions as required by the law and the Constitution, to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for the deaths and injuries of the victims of KTS fire. The Court also issued directives to (a) establish a national committee to monitor compliance of garment factories with applicable laws on fire safety, and make recommendations accordingly; (b) secure payment of adequate compensation to the workers injured in the KTS fire and to the dependents of the deceased; (c) inspect all garment factories in Dhaka, Chittagong and Narayangunj to ensure compliance with fire safety measures; and (d) ensure appropriate protective measures in all garment factories. The Court directed the respondents to submit their reports within three weeks and present accounts of the compensation amount paid to the victims or their dependents. [81]

BGMEA Initiatives

Under a crash programme on fire safety, the BGMEA formed ten inspection teams to survey enforcement of safety conditions in RMG factories. Between 1 April and 13 May 2006, the teams inspected a total of 1,338 factories. During the second week of May they inspected 169 factories in Dhaka and its adjacent areas and witnessed mock fire drills in 98 factories. During the 43-day surveillance they found emergency exits closed in 23 factories and fire exits and staircases blocked with goods or equipment in another two. They imposed a fine of Taka 10,000.0 each on 21 non-compliant factories. They had also inspected 40 factories and witnessed mock fire drills in 38 factories in Chittagong. [82]

Recommendations

The following recommendations in different sectors may be considered as steps towards building healthy labour relations and ensuring workers’ rights:

Construction

  • The Government needs to draft proper safety rules and set up an effective enforcement agency.

Although the new Labour Act does apply to the construction sector, few rules within the Act are relevant to the health and safety of construction workers. There are, however, some safety obligations in the Building Construction (Amendment) Act, 2006 but the Government has not established enforcement mechanisms.

  • For safety and security, Government regulatory authorities and business organisations should ensure that new factories observe the provisions of the Building Construction (Amendment) Act, 2005. Factories that do not comply should not be given investment incentives by the Government nor allowed membership in business organisations.
  • Comprehensive inspection should be carried out to identify factories at risk and steps should be taken to arrange to ensure that they comply with the law

Industrial Safety

  • BGMEA, BKMEA and other business bodies should ensure compliance with work place safety and environmental factors as a condition of membership.
  • A tripartite system of monitoring should include representatives of the Labour Directorate, the industry and workers at each shop floor to ensure better results.
  • Factories and industries should set in place periodical in-house monitoring of compliance conditions and report to the regulators, business bodies, etc.
  • The regulatory agencies must be equipped with human development and technical resources to perform their duties efficiently.

Freedom of Association

  • Workers should be allowed to form trade unions in the informal sectors including agriculture, transport, rice mills, fish industries, construction, ship breaking and domestic workers .
  • Government should ensure that Workers’ Participation Fund and Workers’ Welfare Fund are established according to the provisions of the Labour Act 2006.
  • Trade Union activities should be allowed in the Export Processing Zones.

Data Base and Information Dissemination

  • Baseline surveys should be conducted in each unorganised production sector to maintain statistics on working conditions, wages etc..
  • The Government should ensure that regulatory authorities and employers are made responsible for receiving and providing periodic training courses on the provisions of the Labour Act 2006.
  • Government, trade unions and business bodies should undertake comprehensive awareness campaigns about workers’ rights and legal requirements under the Labour Act 2006. NGOs, media and civil society members may be included in awareness campaigns on workers’ rights.

Worker Benefits

  • Necessary rules should be framed for establishment of Provident Funds for private sector entities, as per the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006.
  • NGOs and welfare societies may be encouraged to provide voluntary services relating to workers’ health care, child care, personal hygiene, literacy and legal assistance.

Notes

* The author is Deputy Director, Advocacy and Public Interest Litigation, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) .

[1] The findings are based on published press and internet reports and responses from various stakeholders .

[2] http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/treaty4_asp.htm.

[3] Adopted by Parliament in September 2006.

[4] Sec.141.

[5] Sec . 345.

[6] Chapter 9.

[7] Chapters 6-8.

[8] Chapter 12.

[9] Chapter 13.

[10] Chapter 3.

[11] Chapters 4-5 and 18.

[12] A. Parvez, Notun Sromik Ain: Ekti Porjolochana, Dhaka, Nagorik Uddyog , 2006, p 1.

[13] Ibid., 4, p 6.

[14] Ibid., 4, p 7.

[15] Ibid., 4, p 4.

[16] See BGMEA website www.bangladeshgarments.info.

[17] P. Palma, “Workers Turn the Golden Goose” , The Daily Star , 5 January, 2007.

[18] Art.23 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

[19] Kabir Uddin Ahmed, former President of BGMEA, in an interview with Prothom alo , 24 May, 2006.

[20] Listed with the BGMEA.

[21] Kabir Uddin Ahmed, op. cit .

[22] H.Hossain, Prothom alo , 24 May 2006, F. Khatoon and K. G. Moazzem, Prothom alo , 25 August, 2006.

[23] Karmojibi Nari, Untold , Vol.13, January - March 2007, p 32.

[24] New Age , 25 April 2006.

[25] See BJMC website, http://www.bjmc.gov.bd/stat.asp.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Federation of Workers of Private Jute, Cotton and Textile Mills of Bangladesh.

[28] Bangladesh: “Workers for Minimum National Wage and Reopening of Mills”, 17 May, 2006 - www.fibre2fashion.com, also The Daily Star, 17 May, 2006.

[29] Government to mull over textile and jute workers’ demands, February 3, 2006, www.fibre2fashion.com.

[30] “Parwar directs His Ire at Government over Starvation of One Lakh Jute Mill Workers”, 5 July, 2005, www.fibre2fashion.com.

[31] New Age, 26 April, 2006.

[32] See Bangladesh Tea Board website, http://www.teaboard.gov.bd/bti.htm#bibti

[33] Export Promotion Bureau, http://www.epb.gov.bd/Statistics2005-06.html

[34] A. Navamukundan, Tea plantation workers in Bangladesh – A Case Study , ILO, Bangkok, 2003. See website- http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/actrav/new/ agsymp03/ dwaa033.pdf . .

[35] According to the Tea Plantation Labour Ordinance, 1962 a person who is above 17 years old is an adult, a person between the age of 15 and 17 is an adolescent and a person between the age of 12 and 15 is a child .

[36] Ibid.

[37] UNFPA, Bangladesh, “Providing information and services to tea plantation communities” - http://www.unfpa-bangladesh.org/pdf/success_03.pdf.

[38] Ibid .

[39] Preliminary Report on Agricultural Sample Survey 2005, Foreword. The Agriculture Census is done once in every ten years. So far, five agriculture censuses were conducted in Bangladesh in 1960, 1977, 1983-84, 1996-97 and 2005. Out of these only the census of 1983-84 was a full count census. The rest were sample surveys. Agricultural Census is conducted by a commission headed by the Director General, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics under the Agriculture Census Act, 1958.

[40] According to the Agricultural Labour (Minimum Wages) Ordinance, 1984, ‘Agricultural Labourer’ means any person employed in agricultural crop production, except those employed by the Government, persons employed in plantation, a person who works as a family labourer or on monthly basis, a person employed by a registered Company and a borgadar (crop sharer).

[41] N. Dhar, “ Legal Status of the Rural and Agricultural Workers in Bangladesh” in D. P. A. Naidu and A. Navamukundan (eds), Decent Work in Agriculture in Asia , ILO, Bangkok, 2003 .

[42] BILS, Labour Market and Trade Union Fact Sheet ; See-www.bils-bd/L_Statistics/ Labour_force.pdf.

[43] BILS, Work Place Safety Report, 2006 .

[44] K.A. Islam., “Minimum Wage still a far cry in various industrial sectors”, New Age , 25 May 2006. See also www.asiarice.org/section/Chapters/Bangladesh/BRF-News.html and http:/banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/F_0028.htm.

[45] New Age , 26 December, 2006.

[46] BILS, Work Place Safety Report, 2006 .

[47] BILS, Labour Market and Trade Union Fact Sheet .

[48] BILS, Work Place Safety Report, 2006 .

[49] Interviews with media workers A. Z. M. Anas Russel, The Financial Express, Khwaja Moinuddin, New Age , and members of Bangladesh Development Communication and Journalism Centre.

[50] Ibid.

[51] BILS, Labour Market and Trade Union Fact Sheet .

[52] Export Promotion Bureau, http://www.epb.gov.bd/Statistics2005-06.html.

[53] BILS, Work Place Safety Report, 2006 .

[54] N. H. Nasim, Shishura Nirjatoner Shikar Hochche Bashabari O Bibhinno Prothisthane , quoting Association for Community and Population Research, in Ittefaq , 19 April, 2006.

[55] New Age , 15 December 2006, www.newagebd.com/2006/dec/15/nat.html.

[56] BILS, Work Place Safety Report, 2006 .

[57] M. Haider, “No laws protecting ‘invisible’ domestic workers ”, New Age , 8 March, 2006.

[58] Manusher Jonno, an NGO supporting foundation.

[59] “Young Power in Social Action” (YPSA), Advocacy for Public Policy to Ensure Human Rights in the Shipping Industry , www.ypsa.org/shipbreaking.htm.

[60] BILS, Workplace Safety Report, 2006 .

[61] P. Palma, “Workers turn the golden goose” , The Daily Star , 5 January, 2007.

[62] Ibid., The Daily Star , 5 January 2007.

[63] http://www.samren.org/Civil_Society_Initiatives/bangladesh/Bangladesh-9.htm.

[64] http://www.bmet.org.bd/report.html.

[65] “Overseas Job Seekers: Conned into Penury by Modern Slave Traders”, The Daily Star, 5 March 2005 , see also http://www.thedailystar.net/2005/03/05/d5030501109.htm.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Dr. A. Momen, “Plight of Bangladeshi Labor: Rules and Laws Hacked” http:// www.drishtipat.org/appeal/slavery.htm.

[68] S.L. Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Director, Human Rights Watch, Dubai, 12 November 2006 .

[69] http://www.thedailystar.net/2005/03/05/d5030501109.html.

[70] Quoted in K. A. Islam, “Gross Abuse of Bangladeshi Workers in Jordan, Global reactions fail to wake up Government”, New Age , 8 May, 2006.

[71] M.S. Islam, M. Hoque, D. Hossain and K.S. Kabir, “The Unheard Voices of Orang Bangla” in Malaysia , www.countercurrents.org/hr.islam201006.html.

[72] BILS, Labour Market and Trade Union Fact Sheet .

[73] ICFTU “Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of Bangladesh”, Geneva, 13 and 15 September, 2006.

[74] Dr . A. Momen, op.cit .

[75] Sangbad, 4 January 2006,

[76] The Daily Star, 31 December, 2005.

[77] ASK Investigation Report of 21 May, 2006.

[78] Quoted in K.A. Islam, “Minimum Wage still a far cry in various industrial sectors” , New Age , 25 May, 2006.

[79] A. Taiyab, First Vice President, BGMEA, Shamokal, 29 March, 2006.

[80] Writ Petition No. 3566 of 2005.

[81] Writ Petition No. 6070 of 1997.

[82] The Daily Star , 14 May, 2006.