Bangladesh is on the verge of graduating from the LDC category within the next five years and it is important to ensure continued preferential market access facility, particularly in the European market, which is the largest export market in Bangladesh.
Besides, major initiatives are required in order to address the weaknesses and challenges with regard to various laws, structural weaknesses and administrative challenges.
All these remarks and observations came up in a virtual dialogue titled ‘’EU’s EBA & Prospect of GSP+ for Bangladesh: Addressing challenges related to Labour Laws and Rights’’, organized by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) today. The study is jointly undertaken by CPD and Network Matters, said a press release.
The speakers at the dialogue said becoming eligible for the European Union’s (EU) GSP+ scheme is one way to ensure that the exports from Bangladesh to the EU destination do not suffer a major setback in the post-graduation period.
Gaining market access through the GSP+ scheme requires Bangladesh to comply with twenty-seven international conventions. Among them fifteen of which are related to human rights and the labour standards of ILO.
Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD stated on her introductory remarks that the study reviewed the scope of legal reforms in the monitoring and application of relevant criteria for GSP+ benefits in Bangladesh and to meet all the requirements of GSP+ related to labour standards.
In the keynote presentation, Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director, CPD said, the European Union’s GSP facility provides a business structure that businesses and governments must ensure sustainable development, in addition to protecting and promoting human rights and labour rights.
There are many opportunities to work with the Labour Act to get GSP+ benefit after graduating from LDC category. In this case, he thinks there is an opportunity to improve the labour laws and rights and undertake necessary reforms, including child labour, trade union laws, and alternative dispute resolution.
RensjeTeerink, Ambassador, European Union Delegation to Bangladesh and TuomoPoutiainen, Country Director, ILO Country Office, Dhaka also joined the virtual dialogue.
According to the EU Ambassador, Bangladesh needs to re-brand itself as a safe and labour-respectful country. This will not only ensure GSP+ benefits for the country but also help in the overall development of the workers.
Referring to the prevalence of informal sector in the country, Kamran T. Rahman, President, Bangladesh Employers’ Federation (BEF) said that implementation of labour laws in informal sector is the biggest challenge.
Md Bellal Hossain Sheikh, Director, Department of Labour, Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) informed that data related to trade unions and dispute resolution will be available soon.
Razequzzaman Ratan, General Secretary, Socialist Labour Front, thinks that labour laws should be enforced in the interest of the development of the country and the development of the workers, not just under external pressure.
Arshad Jamal (Dipu), Vice President, BGMEA suggested that the drafting of labour laws should be based on the domestic context. However, Chowdhury Ashiqul Alam, Secretary General, Bangladesh Trade Union Sangha, thinks that due to the global connectivity, labour laws need to be developed in tandem with domestic and international stakeholders.
Mohammad Hatem, First Vice-President, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), as another discussant in the dialogue said that, buyers need to play a more responsible role.
In order to comply with global labour laws, buyers need to ensure global prices that will help to improve workers’ livelihood.
The dialogue was moderated by Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, CPD and he talked about the importance of ensuring labour laws and rights through social dialogue with all concerned stakeholders.
The dialogue also discussed, inclusion of workplace harassment issues in the legal framework; addressing the forced labour issue properly (including adequate punishments in labour law); addressing the concerns of the ILO committee of experts and improvement of the overall monitoring and implementation framework of decent work in Bangladesh.
Many people including government officials, journalists, researchers, students and various professionals participated in the dialogue and expressed their views.