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The Employment Injury Scheme: A lifeline for Bangladesh's workers

The Employment Injury Scheme (EIS Pilot) is a milestone for Bangladesh’s export-oriented ready-made garment (RMG) workers, with the potential to shield them from the financial storm of workplace injuries and death. 
This ground-breaking initiative not only safeguards workers’ well-being but also paves the way for a safer and healthier work environment through comprehensive data gathering and learning on responding to occupational accidents, diseases, and rehabilitation.

When a working member of a family, especially a ‘breadwinner’, dies, it's like a ship losing its anchor. Entire families can be set adrift, unsure of how to survive, and with no amount of compensation able replace a loved one. But still the Employment Injury Scheme (EIS) Pilot initiative can provide a glimmer of hope in this darkness. It helps to secure a family's livelihood, ensuring that basic needs can still be met amid grief. The EIS Pilot can provide financial security, giving families the peace of mind to know that they will be able to weather the storm if the worst should happen.

The EIS Pilot and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) share common visions centred around promoting workers' rights and ensuring decent working conditions in complex industries such as the RMG sector in Bangladesh. The EIS Pilot, with its focus on providing compensation for work-related injuries, offers a safety net for those facing adversity. It extends its support to the permanently disabled and the families of deceased workers, ensuring their basic needs are met through monthly payments and pensions, all in accordance with international labour standards (ILO Convention No. 121). Simultaneously, ETI collaborates with businesses, NGOs, and trade unions, striving to create workplaces where human rights are respected, and workers are treated with dignity. 

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German Technical Cooperation Agency, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) support the Bangladesh owned EIS Pilot initiative. GIZ and the ILO provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE), the social partners and other stakeholders to implement the initiative effectively. ETI has played a crucial role in assisting GIZ and the ILO to facilitate the involvement of many more brands and retailers in the training sessions of the EIS Pilot.
More than 30 brands and retailers have already committed to support the EIS Pilot financially, with a yearly contribution of 0.019% of their respective RMG export volume from Bangladesh. For example, a committed brand with an RMG export volume per year from Bangladesh of 100 million USD, would provide yearly financial support to the EIS Pilot of 19,000 USD.

ETI company member, One+All is an early participant in the EIS scheme. Overseas Director, Ken Edgar, explains why they got involved.
“We’re extremely aware of our responsibilities to the workers who make our garments. In 2018, we became a Certified B Corporation and a full member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, reinforcing our longstanding commitment to ethical practices in our supply chain. We didn’t hesitate to get involved in the EIS scheme. Taking part is the right thing for us, giving greater reassurance to our workers, should they suffer an accident or worse. Our relationship with ETI is critical in steering us to make ongoing improvements for our workers, and we want to encourage more RMG sector brands to step forward and commit to the EIS scheme.”  

Jabir and Jobaer: A story of resilience and hope

On August 2022, Jabir and Jobaer's father died while working in a Bangladesh garment factory, crushed by a heavy weight of clothes. In an instant, their world was turned upside down. A man lost his life and family, a woman lost her husband, and two children lost their beloved father. Amidst the devastating loss, the EIS Pilot could provide support. Jabir and Jobaer’s case became the first claim handled by this initiative, leading to monthly compensation for the family and many others in similar situations. Through compensation rules agreed upon by a 13-member tripartite Governance Board, comprised of representatives from Government, workers, and employers’ organisations, Jabir, Jobaer, their mother, and their paternal grandfather are now receiving a monthly pension, consisting of a percentage of the last month’s salary of their deceased father.
Jabir and Jobaer's story is just one of many in which the EIS Pilot initiative has been able to make a difference in the lives of garment workers and their families. It is a story of resilience and hope in the face of adversity. 

The EIS Pilot initiative is the first social insurance scheme initiative providing a financial benefit to garment workers and their families in case of work-related death and permanent disability. While it is a time bound approach to be transformed into a national system based on employers’ contribution, it is already a testament to the commitment of the Bangladeshi Government, the industry and its workers’ unions, to the well-being of their workers. Join the EIS Pilot and team up with the other participating brands to enable the transformation. For more information visit - https://eis-pilot-bd.org

There is a need for coordinated efforts to protect workers' social security

সামাজিক নিরাপত্তা শুধু শ্রমিক নয়, প্রত্যেকটি মানুষের মৌলিক ও সাংবিধানিক অধিকার। এই অধিকার থেকে বেশি বঞ্চিত হচ্ছেন শ্রমিকরা। তাঁরা প্রয়োজনীয় স্বাস্থ্যসেবা, আবাসন সুবিধা পাচ্ছেন না। আর শ্রম আইনের যথাযথ প্রয়োগের অভাবে শ্রমিক পাচ্ছেন না ন্যায্য অধিকার।শ্রমিকের বয়স ৩৫ বছর হলেই কমছে উৎপাদনক্ষমতা, বাড়ছে চাকরি হারানোর ঝুঁকি। এসব সমস্যার সমাধানে সমন্বিত উদ্যোগ নেওয়া দরকার।সহযোগিতায় ছিল লাউডেস ফাউন্ডেশন।
আলোচনায় শ্রমিকের সুরক্ষার বিষয়ে শ্রম ও কর্মসংস্থান মন্ত্রণালয়ের শ্রম অনুবিভাগের অতিরিক্ত সচিব মো. তৌফিকুল আরিফ বলেন, ‘সামাজিক সুরক্ষা বলতে আমরা বুঝি, একটা দেশের সব মানুষের সুরক্ষার বিষয়টি। এর মধ্যে অন্যতম হচ্ছে শ্রমিকের সুরক্ষা। আমাদের শ্রম আইনে শ্রমিকের সুরক্ষার বিষয়টিতে গুরুত্ব দেওয়া আছে।
তবে শুধু আইন থাকলেই হয় না, এর বাস্তবায়নের জন্য প্রয়োজন সবার সমন্বিত উদ্যোগ, সবার অংশগ্রহণ।’ 
তৌফিকুল আরিফ বলেন, ৪৩টি সেক্টরে নিম্নতম মজুরি পাঁচ বছর থাকবে। প্রতি পাঁচ বছর পর মজুরি পুনর্নির্ধারণ করার কথা। এটা সময়মতো না হওয়ার দায় শুধু সরকারের একার নয়; শ্রমিক ও মালিক প্রতিনিধিদেরও আছে।
ইউএনডিপির সোশ্যাল প্রটেকশন পলিসি সাপোর্ট প্রকল্পের প্রগ্রাম ম্যানেজার আমিনুল আরিফীন বলেন, ‘শ্রমিক সুরক্ষা নিয়ে কাজ করার ক্ষেত্রে বড় বাধা হলো তথ্যভাণ্ডার নেই।
শ্রমিকদের ডাটা নেই। এলডিসি থেকে উত্তরণের পর আমাদের প্রাতিষ্ঠানিক, অপ্রাতিষ্ঠানিক খাতের শ্রমিকদের সুরক্ষার কাজ করতে চ্যালেঞ্জের সম্মুখীন হতে হবে।’
আমিনুল আরিফীন বলেন, ‘তথ্য বলছে, দেশে এখন নির্মাণ খাতে সবচেয়ে বেশি শ্রমিক মারা যান। এর বাইরে বিদেশে নির্মাণ খাতে কর্মরত কত প্রবাসী মারা যাচ্ছেন তার কোনো তথ্য-উপাত্ত কিন্তু আমাদের কাছে নেই। এসব দিকে এখন নজর দিতে হবে।’   
আমিনুল আরিফীন বলেন, ‘গার্মেন্টস শ্রমিকরা এখন ৩৫ বছর হলেই চাকরি হারানোর ঝুঁকিতে থাকছেন। কারণ তাঁদের উৎপাদনশীলতা কমছে। এ বিষয়টি উদ্বেগের কারণ হয়ে উঠছে। অর্থাৎ একটা সময় পর কর্মীদের আয়ের ক্ষেত্রে অনিশ্চয়তা দেখা দিচ্ছে। এখানেই সুরক্ষার উদ্যোগ নিতে হবে।’
বাংলাদেশ ইউনিভার্সিটি অব হেলথ অ্যান্ড সায়েন্সের পেশাগত ও পরিবেশগত স্বাস্থ্য বিভাগের অধ্যাপক মাহমুদ ফারুকী বলেন, শ্রমিকদের সামাজিক সুরক্ষা বিষয়টি সংবিধানে যথাযথভাবে বলা আছে। পোশাক খাতে দাতা সংস্থাগুলো অ্যাকর্ড-অ্যালায়েন্স তৈরি করেছিল। তাদের তৎপরতায় এই খাতে সামাজিক সুরক্ষার কিছু কাজ হয়েছে।
অধ্যাপক ফারুকী বলেন, ‘মৃত্যু, দুর্ঘটনার বাইরে আমাদের শ্রমিকরা পেশাগত কারণে অসুস্থ হচ্ছেন। এ ক্ষেত্রে কিন্তু আমরা তাঁদের সুরক্ষা দিতে পারছি না। পোশাক, পাটের মতো খাতে শ্রমিকদের প্রধান স্বাস্থ্য সমস্যা হলো শ্বাসকষ্টজনিত রোগ। এটা শ্রমিকদের কর্মক্ষমতা, জীবনীশক্তি কমিয়ে আনে।’ 

সমাজতান্ত্রিক শ্রমিক ফ্রন্টের সভাপতি রাজেকুজ্জামান রতন বলেন, ‘আমাদের সামাজিক নিরাপত্তা বেষ্টনীর ফাঁকগুলো বেশ বড়। এই ফাঁক গলে অনেক কিছু পড়ে যায়। যেমন—শ্রম আইনে আছে দুগ্ধদানকারী মা সামাজিক সুরক্ষা পাবেন। কিন্তু এটা পেতে হলে ওই মায়ের আয় মাসে পাঁচ হাজার টাকার নিচে হতে হবে। এখন দিনে যিনি ২০০ টাকা করেও আয় করেন তাঁর আয় মাসে ছয় হাজার টাকা হওয়ায় তিনি আর এই সুরক্ষা সুবিধার সুযোগ পাবেন না। এখন তো দিনে ২০০ টাকার কম মজুরি নেই বললেই চলে।’   

রাজেকুজ্জামান রতন বলেন, ‘সামাজিক উৎপাদনের সঙ্গে সামাজিক সুরক্ষাকে যুক্ত করতে হবে। শ্রমিক যখন দেখতে পাবেন যে তাঁর জন্য সত্যিকারের সামাজিক সুরক্ষার ব্যবস্থা আছে, তখন তিনি চাকরি হারানোর ভয় থেকে মুক্তি পাবেন।’ তিনি শ্রমিকদের সুরক্ষায় আইএলও কনভেনশনের ৯টি বিষয় বাস্তবায়নের ওপর জোর দেন। 

ইন্টারন্যাশনাল লেবার অরগানাইজেশনের (আইএলও) সোশ্যাল প্রটেকশনের ন্যাশনাল প্রগ্রাম অফিসার ফারজানা রেজা বলেন, সামাজিক সুরক্ষার ক্ষেত্রে আইএলওর সামাজিক নিরাপত্তা, সামাজিক বীমা এবং সক্রিয় শ্রমবাজার কর্মসূচি আছে। জাতীয় সামাজিক নিরাপত্তা কৌশলে সরকার অনেক কাজ করছে। সরকার ১১৫টি সোশ্যাল সিকিউরিটি প্রগ্রাম নিয়েছে, যার আওতায় সব পর্যায়ের সুবিধাভোগী এসে যাচ্ছে।

কর্মক্ষেত্রে কোনো শ্রমিক আহত বা নিহত হলে তাঁদের সুরক্ষার জন্য আইএলওর নীতির মাধ্যমে ইনস্যুরেন্সের আওতায় আনার চেষ্টা করা হচ্ছে। এই কাজ এখন পোশাক খাতে পাইলট প্রকল্প পর্যায়ে আছে। পরবর্তী সময়ে এটি জাতীয় পর্যায়ে বাস্তবায়ন করা যেতে পারে।

বিলস নির্বাহী কমিটির সম্পাদক সাকিল আখতার চৌধুরী বলেন, ‘শ্রমিকদের শতকরা ৮৮ ভাগ অপ্রাতিষ্ঠানিক খাতে কাজ করেন। এঁদের সুরক্ষায় আওতায় আনা বড় চ্যালেঞ্জ। আমাদের অনেক ভালো আইন আছে, কিন্তু বাস্তবে প্রয়োগ খুব কম। তাই আমাদের সমন্বিত উদ্যোগ নিতে হবে। অংশগ্রহণমূলক প্রচেষ্টা থাকতে হবে।’

বাংলাদেশ এমপ্লয়ার্স ফেডারেশনের মহাসচিব ফারুক আহমেদ বলেন, ‘আমাদের জনসংখ্যার প্রায় ১০ শতাংশ প্রতিবন্ধী। তাদেরও সামাজিক সুরক্ষা প্রয়োজন। ইউরোপীয় ইউনিয়ন ৯৩ মিলিয়ন ডলার দিয়েছিল, কিন্তু আমরা তা ব্যবহার করতে পারিনি। কারণ আমাদের শ্রমিক ডাটাবেইস নেই। ফলে টাকা ফেরত চলে গিয়েছিল। তাই সরকারের উচিত একটা নির্দিষ্ট সময়ের মধ্যে এই ডাটাবেইস তৈরি করা, যেখানে সব নাগরিকের বিষয়ে প্রয়োজনীয় তথ্য-উপাত্ত থাকবে।’

অ্যাকশনএইড বাংলাদেশের উইমেন রাইট ইকুইটির ম্যানেজার মরিয়ম নেসা বলেন, ‘পোশাক খাতে যে নারীরা কাজ করেন তাঁদের সুরক্ষার নানা দিক আছে। আমরা বলছি, এই খাতে আরো নারী আসুক। কিন্তু তাঁরা সন্তানকে কার কাছে রেখে আসবেন, তা নিশ্চিত করা যাচ্ছে না। অনেক কর্মক্ষেত্রে নারী কর্মী সন্তানসম্ভাবনা হলে বাদ পড়ছেন। তাঁর সুরক্ষার বিষয়টি আমাদের ভাবতে হবে।’

বৈঠকে সমাপনী বক্তব্য দেন জিআইজেডের সুরক্ষা প্রকল্পের কারিগরি উপদেষ্টা আসাদুজ্জামান রুমন। গোলটেবিল বৈঠকটি সঞ্চালনা করেন কালের কণ্ঠ’র সম্পাদক শাহেদ মুহাম্মদ আলী। মূল প্রবন্ধ উপস্থাপন করেন কালের কণ্ঠ’র নিজস্ব প্রতিবেদক তামজিদ হাসান তুরাগ।

Speakers call for creating workers’ database

Speakers at a roundtable discussion in the capital on Saturday underscored the need for taking steps to hold the details of workers on the database to ensure that they get all the benefits they are entitled to.
German development organisation GIZ Bangladesh and the daily Kaler Kantho organised the programme on social security of workers at the East West Media Group conference room in Bashundhara Residential Area in the capital.
Kaler Kantho Staff Reporter Tumjid Hasan Turag made the keynote presentation at the event moderated by Shahed Muhammad Ali, editor of the vernacular daily.
The speakers said there are about 7 crore workers in the country’s informal sector but there is no accurate data on them. As a result, the benefits of social security for workers cannot be realised in many cases for lack of coordination and a comprehensive database.
According to the keynote presentation, country’s informal sector workers have no insurance, health, child care, house rent and rationing facilities.
In the last 13 years, 11,000 labourers died in workplaces, mostly in construction and transport sectors.
Aminul Arifeen, UNDP programme manager of social protection policy support, said the workers are not protected at all in terms of housing and health. “Maybe what is given is insufficient compared to what is needed. If our workers are over 35 years of age, they are excluded from work. The reason is said to be that their productivity decreases. A worker is also excluded if he is seriously injured. If there is no protection here, how will he proceed?”
Prof Dr Mahmud Faruqi of Bangladesh University of Health and Sciences said the safety system for workers at workplace is not enough.
Morium Nesa, manager (Women's Rights and Gender Equity) at ActionAid Bangladesh, said, “We don’t have enough data on workers in the informal sector. Workers in the RMG sector have some information, but not in many other sectors.”
Secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) Shakil Akhter Chowdhury said the workers in the country can only earn their livelihood with the wages they are given,they can do nothing more with this. “A worker starts work at 18 but he/she has no work after 35. Then no one -- government or owner -- takes their responsibility.”
“For women workers, being pregnant is like a crime. A lot has changed in the RMG sector since the Rana Plaza tragedy. It should be done in other sectors as well as 87-88% workers are engaged in the informal sector. Their details should be held on the database,” he added.
Farzana Reza, national programme officer (Social protection) at the International Labour Organization, said currently there are over 100 social security programmes under the National Social Security Policy 2015. “For lack of coordination and a comprehensive database, its benefits can’t be realised in many cases.”
Faooq Ahmed, secretary general of Bangladesh Employees Federation, said all the workers cannot be protected for lack of insufficient data.
He also alleged that owners do not always focus on workers’ safety.
Md Towfiqul Arif, additional labour and employment secretary, said minimum wages have been fixed in 43 informal sectors. “Work is going on to bring 11 other sectors under it.”
The speakers put forward some recommendations at the roundtable discussion that include ensuring job security for workers, bringing them under universal protection, taking steps to ensure their social security, taking injury protection scheme and ensuring their health.

Social security of workers requires coordinated efforts

একটা বয়সে এসে শ্রমিকরা কর্মক্ষমতা হারাচ্ছে। ফলে তাদের ভবিষ্যৎ নিয়ে এক প্রকার শঙ্কা দেখা দিচ্ছে। এই শঙ্কা দূরীকরণে তথ্য ঘাটতি বা কোনো যথাযথ ডেটা না থাকায় শ্রমিকদের জন্য সামাজিক সুরক্ষা দেওয়া সম্ভব হচ্ছে না। পাশাপাশি পেশাগত কারণে শ্রমিকরা যে অসুস্থ হচ্ছে সে বিষয়ে সরকার ঠিকমতো সুরক্ষা দিতে পারছে না। যার ফলে শ্রমিকদের সুরক্ষার বিষয়টি সংবিধানে থাকলেও এটি বাস্তবায়ন হচ্ছে না বলে মনে করছেন বিশিষ্টজনেরা। তাই শ্রমিকদের সামাজিক নিরাপত্তায় সমন্বিত উদ্যোগ নেওয়া প্রয়োজন মনে করছেন তারা।

গতকাল রাজধানীর বসুন্ধরা আবাসিক এলাকায় ইস্ট ওয়েস্ট মিডিয়া লিমিটেড (ইডব্লিউএমজিএল) কনফারেন্স হলে ‘শ্রমিকদের সামাজিক সুরক্ষা বাংলাদেশের শ্রম খাতের সুষম উন্নয়ন’ শীর্ষক গোলটেবিল আলোচনা সভায় এ মতামত দেন বক্তারা। গোলটেবিল আলোচনা সভাটি যৌথভাবে আয়োজন করে দৈনিক কালের কণ্ঠ ও জিআইজেড।

অনুষ্ঠানে উপস্থিত ছিলেন শ্রম ও কর্মসংস্থান মন্ত্রণালয়ের শ্রম অনুবিভাগের অতিরিক্ত সচিব মো. তৌফিকুল আরিফ, অ্যাকশন এইড বাংলাদেশের উইমেন রাইটস অ্যান্ড জেন্ডার ইকুইটি ম্যানেজার মরিয়ম নেছা, বাংলাদেশ ইউনিভার্সিটি অব হেলথ অ্যান্ড সায়েন্সের অধ্যাপক ড. মাহমুদ ফারুকী, সোশ্যাল প্রোটেকশন পলিসি সাপোর্ট ইউএনডিপি প্রোগ্রাম ম্যানেজার আমিনুল আরিফীন, আইএলওর সোশ্যাল প্রোটেকশনের ন্যাশনাল প্রোগ্রাম অফিসার ফারজানা রেজা, জাতীয় সমাজতান্ত্রিক শ্রমিক ফ্রন্টের সভাপতি রাজেকুজ্জামান রতন, বাংলাদেশ এমপ্লয়ার্স ফেডারেশনের মহাসচিব ফারুক আহমেদ, বিলসের নির্বাহী কমিটির সম্পাদক সাকিল আখতার  চৌধুরী প্রমুখ। অতিরিক্ত সচিব মো. তৌফিকুল আরিফ বলেন, সামাজিক সুরক্ষা বলতে আমরা বুঝি একটা দেশের জনগণের সুরক্ষার বিষয়। আর এর মধ্যে অন্যতম হচ্ছে শ্রমিকের সুরক্ষার বিষয়। আমাদের শ্রম আইনে শ্রমিকের সুরক্ষার বিষয়ে অনেক কিছুই আছে। আমাদের এখানে এককভাবে সিদ্ধান্ত দেওয়ার সুযোগ নেই। মালিক ও শ্রমিক প্রতিনিধির সঙ্গে আলোচনা করতে হয়। ন্যূনতম মজুরি পুনর্নির্ধারণ করতে এখানে যখন কোনো শ্রমিক প্রতিনিধি বা মালিক প্রতিনিধির নাম চাওয়া হয় তখন তা এক বছরেও পাওয়া যায় না। তথ্য ঘাটতির কারণে শ্রমিকদের জন্য সামাজিক সুরক্ষা দেওয়া সম্ভব হচ্ছে না উল্লেখ করে তিনি বলেন, রপ্তানিমুখী শিল্পের কর্মহীন হয়ে পড়া শ্রমিক এবং দুস্থ শ্রমিকদের জন্য সুরক্ষা কার্যক্রম এবং নীতিমালা নেওয়া হয়েছে। সেখানে বাস্তবিক অর্থে তথ্যের ঘাটতি থাকার কারণে, যে সব শ্রমিকদের এই সহায়তার প্রয়োজন ছিল। তাদেরকে আমরা তা দিতে পারিনি। একটা বয়সে শ্রমিকদের কর্মক্ষমতা হারানোর ফলে তাদের ভবিষ্যৎ নিয়ে যে শঙ্কা, সেটা দূরীকরণে নিশ্চিত ভবিষ্যৎ প্রদান করতে সরকার কাজ করছে উল্লেখ করে সোশ্যাল প্রোটেকশন পলিসি সাপোর্ট ইউএনডিপি প্রোগ্রাম ম্যানেজার আমিনুল আরিফীন বলেন, গার্মেন্টের যারা টেকনিক্যাল এক্সপার্ট তারা অন্য চাকরিজীবীদের মতো দীর্ঘ সময় ধরে করতে পারে না। কারণ তার বয়স যখন ৩৫ বছরের বেশি হয়ে যায়, তখন সে আর আগের মতো পরিশ্রম করতে পারে না। তাই দেখা যায় একটা সময় তার আয়ের ক্ষেত্রে এক ধরনের অনিশ্চিয়তা দেখা দেয়। বাংলাদেশ ইউনিভার্সিটি অব হেলথ অ্যান্ড সায়েন্সের অধ্যাপক ড. মাহমুদ ফারুকী বলেন, শ্রমিকরা পেশাগত কারণে যে অসুস্থ হয়। সে বিষয়ে সুরক্ষা দিতে পারি না। বাংলাদেশ এমপ্লয়ার্স ফেডারেশনের মহাসচিব ফারুক আহমেদ বলেন, সবারই অধিকার আছে সামাজিক সুরক্ষা পাওয়া। তবে শ্রমিকদের ক্ষেত্রে এটা আরও ভালোভাবে বাস্তবায়ন করার প্রয়োজন। প্রতিবন্ধী ব্যক্তিদেরও সামাজিক সুরক্ষার প্রয়োজন আছে। জাতীয় সমাজতান্ত্রিক শ্রমিক ফ্রন্টের সভাপতি রাজেকুজ্জামান রতন বলেন, শ্রমিকরা কোনো কিছুই ফ্রিতে নেয় না। সমাজে তাদের কোনো না কোনো অবদান থাকে।

RMG Workers in Bangladesh:Violation of the rights or overlooking the law?

Abstract: This paper presents the scenario where a worker’s basic right is violated in the garment factories of Bangladesh. Bangladesh Labour Act 2006, amended in 2013, codified all the old law and specifies law to protect the worker’s right including damages to pay to the employees who have suffered injury or illness through their employer’s fault. This paper also highlights the current situation of the workers’ status after an amended labour Act.Finally, it raises the question whetherthe present law can guarantee adequate and sustainable rights for the workers that they are deprived of. 


Employing 3.6 million workers in 4,500 garment factories, Bangladesh’s garment industry generates over three quarters of the country’s total export revenue.[1] In spite of the central role the sector plays in the nation’s economy, Bangladeshi garment workers suffer from horrifying conditions in the factories while earning well below a living wage and having limited or no benefits. In contrast, female workers, who make up nearly 85% of the garment sector workforce, are paid even less than their male counterparts, and are especially vulnerable to abuse.[2]

It is a fact that Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 the final amendment of which came into force in 2013, is an amalgamation of the amendments from the previous statutes. It has been implemented with the help of many domestic and international organizations to develop the labour rights and their overall situation, providing safe work place, adequate compensation and well-being. According to the law, the commercial establishment, industries, factories, shops etc. need to implement and follow all the rules and regulations of this Act that are applicable for them respectively. This Act provides a basic guideline for the injured worker and their compensation. However, it overrides the old doctrines of assumed risks, common employment, contributory negligence, the end of personal actions with the deathof the workman and the compensation paid to a workman for doing any negligent or wrongful act on the part of his master or his master’s servant.[3] 

This article focuses the relevant statutes of Bangladesh. It has evaluated the relevant statutory provisions of the concerned Acts on the rights of workers’forbetter safety and tends to suggest some improvements of those concerned laws. 

The Labour Law Act 2006 [4] 

The pinnacle process that began in 1992, the 2006 Bangladesh Labour Law Act was greeted as a landmark achievement for factory workers. The new law brought together 25 separate Acts and Ordinances enacted over the three and a half decades since Bangladesh gained independence. This scope extended the applicability of labour regulations nationwide. A range of stakeholders played a role in developing the legislation, including workers’ rights groups, human rights organisations, the UN International LabourOrganisation(ILO) and employers themselves.[5] 

Since Bangladesh has been an active Member State of the ILO from 1972 and to date, has ratified 35 ILO Conventions that includes seven of eight fundamental Conventions of the ILO.[6] The Government has amended the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 in 2013,to make it more in line with the ILO conventions. The impetus for a reformed labor rights law evolved from the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in greater Dhaka in April, which killed more than 1,100 garment factory workers.[7] 

Hence, the law promised to benefit workers by guaranteeing rights that were being violated on a regular basis by employers. For example, the law strengthened maternity benefits by extending the period of maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks. It also required companies to issue workers with an appointment letter, a measure which helps prevent employers cheating workers out of

benefits. In addition, the law set an employer deadline for payment of wages, raised compensation pay in cases of accidents in the workplace and established more robust health and safety codes for factories.[8] 

A failure of enforcement 

During the passage of the Bangladesh Labour Law marked an important step towards justice for garment workers, factory conditions that have not improved and workers continue to earn well below a living wage. Nevertheless, the law failed to bring about lasting change in the lives of workers due to lack of enforcement of its key provisions. The Bangladesh Ministry of Labour and Employment has primarily been responsible for monitoring enforcement of the Labour Law. However, resources allocated to the Ministry are woefully inadequate. If we look at the statistics of 2006 there were only 20 inspectors responsible for monitoring the conditions of more than 20,000 factories, docks and other businesses across Bangladesh. 

Whereas, in September 2018, according to the report of European Commission – which is co signed by the Government of Bangladesh, only 29% of initial safety defects found in factories covered by national inspection bodies have been remediated. Many of the safety issues that remain pending constitute immediate dangers to garment workers and most of the remediation deadlines have expired years ago.[9] 

There are other voluntary associations that have been set up by the factories themselves that is intended to play an important role in enforcing labour standards in the garment sector. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association were both established by the garment industry to monitor and report on the implementation of the Labour Law in factories. Such compliance associations operate outside any enforceable legal framework, and have proven unwilling to pursue any cases of non-compliance in their member factories.[10] 

In addition there is also no international mechanism for enforcing the domestic law that can be used to hold foreign companies operating in Bangladesh to account for conditions in their supply chains. Many multinational companies are supplied by Bangladeshi factories, including British renowned retailers Tesco, Asda and Primark. These companies wield enormous influence over their foreign suppliers. Thus, as a result, the pressure placed on these suppliers leads to lower wages and deteriorating conditions for workers.[11]

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26/09/2023, 10:03 RMG Workers in Bangladesh:Violation of the rights or overlooking the law? - UK Law in Bangladesh । British Law in Bangladesh … 

Moreover, without effective enforcement of the Labour Law, Bangladeshi workers continue to face dire conditions. To ensure a decent life for millions of workers and their families there are few evidences can be found which violates the existing labour legislation. 

Therefore, if we look at this article we will find a series of issues, including unsafe factories, unpaid overtime, lack of benefits, gender discrimination that is described by the workers. The key issues have been described below step by step 

1.Proof of employment 

The Labour Law Act 2006 [12]makes it compulsory for employers to issue appointment letters to all workers. An appointment letter serves as a contract that enables workers to prove their status as employees who are entitled to the full range of rights. However, 53% of the workers interviewed as part of the research of War of Want, did not receive an appointment letter. In many cases workers were given pieces of identification with far less legal value, such as ID cards or attendance cards. These documents offer limited protection against fraudulent employer practices. Many workers reported that managers held on to their attendance cards or reissued them on a monthly basis and leave them without a record of their hours worked.[13] 

2.The minimum wage 

Most of the parts of minimum wage laws are being adhered to the salaries. It has been set at suchlevelsthat cause majority of workers to face dire poverty. The minimum wage is set by the Wage Board, which, according to the Labour Law, “shall take into consideration, while framing any recommendation, the cost of living, standard of living, production cost, production capacity, price of produced goods, inflation…and socio-economic condition of the country.”[14] 

Prior to the BLA 2006, the minimum wage in Bangladesh is determined by each worker’s employment level. An entry-level worker, for example, is guaranteed a minimum monthly wage of Tk 1,663.[15] 

From the entry-level earners to higher paid labourers, 88% of them received the minimum wage according to their grade as defined by the government. There were, however, numerous reports of violations committed by sub-contractors. Over 60% of garment workers received a monthly wage of less than Tk 3,000, which is roughly £25. The current minimum wage, established by the Wage Board in 2006 after remaining fixed for over a decade, in fact has a lower value in real terms than the previous minimum wage after the rising cost of food, fuel and other commodities are taken into account.[16]

Factoring in this disparity between wage levels and increases in the cost of living, the current minimum wage is in direct contravention of Bangladeshi law.[17]However, under domestic and international pressure, on July 15, 2013, the Bangladeshi parliament enacted changes to the Labor Act by increasing salaries of garment workers.[18] 

Subsequently, the legal minimum wage for garment workers in the country is 8,000 taka (£73.85) a month. However, the amount was increased by 2,700Tk a month in December, but campaigners say workers need 16,000Tk to live a comfortable life in Bangladesh.[19] With such low wages, employees often feel compelled to take on large amounts of overtime to make ends meet.[20] 

3.Gruelling hours and unpaid leave 

In spite of legislation limiting working time, s.100 and s.108 of BLA2006[21] states that, the working time should not exceed no more than eight hours per day and 48 hours in a week, excessive working hours are still usual rather than the exception.[22]Even subject to article 24 of The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) 1948 also clarifies that there should be a reasonable limitation of working hours for workers.[23] 

Yet in reality, according to the AMF and NGWF study, nearly half of the workers worked between 13 and 16 hours a day; some of them regularly worked more than eight hours a day. In addition, 78% of workers were put on the night shift, at times remaining at the factory until 3am and returning at 7am that same morning for another day of work.[24] 

However, in recent amendments of Labour Act 2013, a worker is entitled to get maternity leave, weekly holiday, casual leave, sick leave and annual leave with full wages under s.46, s.103, s.115, s.116 and s.117 of the Act, and according to section 11, the employer shall pay wages to the worker in lieu of the un-availed leave.[25] As gratuity, a worker is entitled as termination benefit under s.2(10) the wages of at least 30 days for every completed year of their service exceeding 06 months or, the wages of 45 days for every completed year in case of service more than 10 years.[26] 

Nevertheless in spite of having this law, workers get only 10 days or less of the total 21 days of annual leave. It has been calculated that only9% received their full allotment of paid holiday including time off for Eid. Although workers are entitled to 14 days paid sick leave, many of them explained that their employers pressure them into working through illness. No worker reported

ever receiving paid sick leave. 

4.Forced overtime and unpaid wages 

Forcedlabour is globally prohibited by the Forced Labour Convention, 1930.[27] The Constitution of Bangladesh under article 34 also prohibits forced labour. But, in order to fulfil production quotas, many workers are forced to work overtimes per day than the amounts required in law. [28] 

In Bangladesh, at least 70% of respondents reported that they are forced to meet daily targets that are set unrealistically high. Over half of the workers have worked seven days a week to meet daily targets that are unrealistically high and earn enough to live on. Those workers that do take a day off during the week keep hours that are equivalent to a full seven-day working week in order to make up for lost earnings. Under Bangladeshi law all employers must grant workers at least one day off a week.[29] 

On the other hand, s.26 of the Act[30] provides that a monthly rated worker is entitled to get four months basic salary. Every employer shall be liable to pay to workers employed by him all wages required to be paid under s.121 of the Act.[31] Under s.23(2) of the Act[32] all wages payable to a worker shall be paid before the expiry of the thirtieth working day following the day termination of their employment.[33] 

Whereas, in reality, the back-breaking hours and unpaid overtime are made all the more shocking by the frequency with which workers are cheated out of payment for hours worked. [34]According to the UNICEF report of 2015 on The Ready Made Garment sector and Children in Bangladesh, over two thirds of workers employers do not provide any wage slip or other documentation of their earnings from employers. This kind of activity creating absurd situation for workers to verify that they are being paid the proper amount.[35] 

Many factories that do issue wage slips present the information in a way that is deliberately misleading. As a result, the vast majority of whom are poorly educated face difficulties to ascertain the actual payment which they deserve. According to the report War of Want on Labour Rights Violations in the Garment Sectors in Bangladesh, nearly 45% of the workers claimed that their final wages do not reflect the full number of hoursworked.Garment workers must also contend with late payment of wages. However, less than 10% of workers received their wages within the legal timeframe established under the Labour Law. Over a third of the workers typically receive their pay towards the end of the month following that which they 

worked, which is three weeks later than the legally mandated payment deadline.[36] 5.Unsafe conditions 

The Bangladesh Labour Act 2006[37] ensures some special provisions regarding the health issue as well as safety for the employees under chapter VII in sections 79-88. According to this chapter, the workers should be notified such operations which are hazardous and also harmful for their health. The employee has right to know the information of certain accident and dangerous occurrences which might happen to their workplaces.[38]Whereas, despite of having this law, health and safety violations are extensive in Bangladesh’s garment factories.[39] Over 70% of workers reported in World Business Council for Sustainable Development: Business Action for Safe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, that their workplace lacked safe drinking water, even though many factories are poorly ventilated and often reach blistering temperatures.[40] An even higher percentage of workers claimed in UNICEF report that the factory where they worked did not have a functioning fire escape. Moreover, only 23% of those interrogated that they had access to toilet facilities.[41] 

6.Gender Discrimination 

The 2006 Labour Law[42] contains a provision guaranteeing equal rate of pay for men and women. In Article 23(2) & 23(3) of UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) 1948[43] also states about right to equal payment for equal work, just and favorable remuneration. [44]However, according to the research conducted by the AMRF and the NGWF, women earn far less than their male colleagues.[45] 

The wage disparity is the result of two interrelated factors. Male garment workers are far more likely than women to hold jobs that traditionally pay more, such as quality control and floor supervisor, and men also earn more than women who perform the same work.[46] 

While all garment workers face poor conditions and poverty wages in factories, female workers suffer in particular. Most of the female workers face widespread instances of physical and verbal abuse in factories at the hands of management. The abuse can take the form of obscene language and humiliation, as well as corporal punishment, beatings and molestation. Some young women workers are offered work privileges in return for sex, and that those who refuse are beaten or fired. In total, 90% of all workers reported being subjected to abuse of some kind. [47] 

7.Maternity Rights Denied

Most women are deprived of maternity leave, which is guaranteed under law. In many cases women have to negotiate individually with management for time off before and after childbirth. Some women are granted a few weeks of paid leave, while others must accept a reduced wage or take unpaid leave.[48] 

However, one of the most impactful changes brought about by the recently amended Act of BLA 2013, guarantees financial benefits to new mothers after they give birth. Previously, if a woman had not given notice prior to the birth of her child, if she did so after the birth, she could still avail maternity leave for a period of up to 8 weeks afterwards. In this situation, however, it was not specified that the post-birth leave period would be paid. [49] 

The amended Act gives additional clarification that the post-birth leave period must be paid along with other benefits. This provision is kept within its proper bounds, however, by another new provision which provides that such benefits shall not be given if a miscarriage occurs although the worker may take leave for any health issues that may arise.[50] 

Whereas, in reality, most of the women workers have little knowledge of their rights or of the necessary applications to employers or the doctors’ certificates needed in order to claim those rights. As a result, many of them are being fired by their employers when they become pregnant, or sent on leave without payment. Moreover, most of the women are forced to work during the final stages of pregnancy in order to make ends meet, jeopardising the health of both mother and child. [51] 

8.Trade Unions 

Bangladesh has ratified most of the core International Labour Organization labor standards, including Convention No. 87 on “freedom of association” and Convention No. 98 on “the right to organize and bargain” respectively.[52] However, important sections of the Labor Act still do not meet those standards. In an editorial of Human RightsWatchnamed asBangladesh: Amended Labours Law Falls Short, states about some new amendments that is dealt with only some problematic provisions of the existing law. For example-At least 30 percent of the workers in an establishment, which can comprise many factories, would still have to join a union for the government to register it. This will enable employers to force out union leaders by firing them for an ostensibly non-union-related reason whereas in Bangladesh workers in export processing zones covers a large percentage of Bangladesh’s work forces. Therefore, it would remain legally unable to form trade unions. [53]

The amended law adds more sectors, including non-profit education and training facilities, as well as “hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centers,” to a lengthy list of types of employment. As a result workers are not permitted to form these facilities within the unions. [54] 

The right to strike will remain burdened and the requirement that two-thirds of the union’s membership would have to vote for a strike and therefore, a small improvement over the previous requirement of three-quarters of the membership. The government will be able to stop a strike if it decides it would cause “serious hardship to the community” or is “prejudicial to the national interest.” Since the terms are not defined in the amended Act there is a high chance to misuse it. The amended law also seeks to redirect attention to so-called “Participation Committees” and “Safety Committees.” Workers at non-union workplaces would directly elect their representatives to Participation Committees and Safety Committees. This can be created in factories including more than 50 workers. However, the role of these committees is not clearly defined. Therefore, to fulfill these duties a union acting should be handled by the duly organized and elected representative of the workers. [55] 

Scope of protection for workers in Bangladesh Labour court. 

Our Honorable Supreme Court providednumerous landmark decisions for the protection of labour rights. In BWDB v The Chairman[56], theheir to the deceased worker received unpaid benefits. Unders.132(1) of the LabourAct 2006[57] states that, if the wages of a worker is not paid or payment of their wages or gratuity payable or dues from the provident fund is delayed, the worker of in case of death any of their heirs or any legal representative may apply to the Labour Court for recovery of wages or other dues.[58] 

Similarly, in the Adam Ltd. v UnisaKhatoon[59]case, under s.4 of Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923,[60] a widow was compensated for the death of her husband caused by an accident during his course of employment. On the other hand, in theA.K.M. Shamsuzzaman Khan v Chairman[61]case, unders.2 (1) (b) of Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1923,[62]Supreme Court of Bangladesh held that a bus conductor received compensation for permanent total disablement caused by accident during his course of employment. [63] 

Moreover, in Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers Association (BNWLA) v The Cabinet Division[64]the Honorable High Court outlined directions to the Government for the protection nd

and betterment of the Domestic Workers.[65] On 2 February 2017, according to The DailyStarnewspaper, The High Court asked the Ministry of Labour and Employment, city corporation, district administration and UpazilaNirbahi Officers (UNO) to form monitoring bodies 

to protect the rights of the domestic workers across the country[66] in accordance with Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy, 2015.[67] Therefore, it is an evident that, worker’s rights have been well protected as domestic legal order of Bangladesh. 

However, a large number of amendments focus on reducing the imprisonment terms, for both workers and for employers in cases of contravention. This may appear to go against the strict implementation of the Act. For example, if workers act in an illegal strike, the imprisonment term has been lowered from 1 (one) year to 6 (six) months. This goes both ways, so if meanwhile, an employer acts in an illegal lock-out, their imprisonment has similarly been reduced from 1 (one) year to 6 (six) months. Therefore, to secure higher compliance with the Act the legal provisions needs to be tightening along with a better administered implementation. [68] 


To exclude the whole scheme, in conclusion, it can be precluded that, recent social changes and higher expectations of workers have been reflected in the recent amendments of Labour law. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, a Treaty that is accepted as jus cogens under international law:“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”[69]Therefore, as a right for a worker itis necessary for the industry to improve the safety and health conditions and compensation mechanisms for workers by including mental injury and other physical injury. 

However, question may be asked as to then why our workers are not getting protection of these rights. The answer is, the problem lies in the implementation and enforcement of laws. Moreover, employers need to strictly follow the law under the Labour Act to keep them in a good position for paying the compensation amount properly by which a worker can return to work facilities and programmers, providing support to victims to re-enter the job market. As a result, this will help tosetup the establishment of health and rehabilitation facilities by ensuring good coverage in urban and rural areas as soon as possible.Additionally, employers need to start giving and ensuring proper education and training for different industries to reduce accidents, and improve health and safety standards so that in future a worker can give adequate attention inthe work place. We hope that the proper implementation of labour laws would safeguard the life and dignity of our workers from any more exploitation and deprivation.

*** The author is a final year student at LCLS(South) 

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[31]Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 amended by 2013, s. 121 

[32]Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 amended by 2013, s. 123(2) 

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[60] Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923, s.4 

[61]EPRTC 24 DLR (1972) 94 

[62] Workmen’s Compensation Act, s.2 (1)(b) 

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[69] Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948, Article 25 


Now focus on construction and informal industries

Although accidents in garment factories have reduced, the trend of accidents in the construction and informal sectors in the country remains the same. The garment sector has improved due to domestic and foreign pressure. But in the rest of the sectors, there is no effective initiative to prevent accidents. Construction and informal industries should now be looked at to reduce accidents. Building security is talked about for any type of factory, big or small. But the discussion of safety for those involved in building construction is not as strong. A handful of organizations are working on this. People related to the garment sector say that once there were boiler explosions
in factories in the country. Now it has reduced. But accidents due to leakage in gas lines are increasing. This is essentially creating a fire hazard. But companies like Titus Gas are still not sensitive to issues like gas leakage. Not constructing the building as per the design also increases the level of risk. One of the major factory accidents in the country was the Rana Plaza collapse in Savar on 24 April 2013. One thousand 138 workers lost their lives in the 9th floor collapse. Two thousand 438 people were injured. Many of the injured are still living crippled lives. Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said at the time that non-design building construction and non-use of quality materials were the main reasons for the accident. Apart from this, there was installation of generators on the floor, installation of boilers and heavy machines, storage of additional raw materials etc. When asked, urban and environmental architect Iqbal Habib said, 'One of the main reasons for the major garment accidents that have occurred in Bangladesh was the construction of buildings without complying with the building code. Before building a factory, we must obey the law first. We have environmental laws, labor laws, industrial laws—these laws must be obeyed first. If these laws are obeyed, the safety of the factory or building will be ensured. He said, besides this, the management of what kind of waste will be produced from the factory should also be kept in mind. Alamgir Shamsul Alamin, the president of Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB), the association of housing traders, told Kal Kantha that REHAB has taken a special training system across the country to ensure that workers do not die in the construction sector, through which the workers can become more efficient. He said, 'So far we have trained 30 thousand workers. Helmets must be worn on the head and belts must be fastened while working on the building.' Alamgir Shamsul Alamin said, 'We have formed a special fund for construction sector workers on behalf of Rehab. From there we will support the workers who are victims of accidents.' He claimed that till now no construction worker has died after falling from the building of any member of Rehab. What is happening is happening under a non-member construction firm or contractor. Maqbool Ahmed (pseudonym) works in a garment factory in Savar. He told Kal Kantha, 'The factory I work in sells products in the domestic market. There is no
safety management in the factory.' Garment Workers Federation President Najma Akhter told Kal Kantha that the building has become safer than before. Apart from this, the factories have not developed much. Workers are now suffering from job insecurity. He said, compliance does not only mean having a safe building. Along with this, workers' salaries, day care facilities—everything is there. There is not much headache about these issues. He said, now the small factories are more at risk. Special
attention should be paid to them. Mostafiz Ahmed, Associate Professor of Social Work Department of Jagannath University works on labor rights. He told Kal Kantha that now big factories (garments) are complying. Prioritizing worker safety. But small factories do not adhere to any standard. There workers are working with risk.

Worker deaths outside garment factories are on the rise

Although accidents at work are at the peak, accidents and deaths in garment factories have decreased several times over the past century. However, the number of workers killed in sexual harassment, fights, violence and road accidents outside the factory is increasing. Analyzing several surveys of several organizations working on the garment sector in the country, it can be seen that after the Rana Plaza incident in 2013, major accidents in the garment sector started to decrease. Analysts believe that this progress has been made due to the pressure of foreign buyers, awareness of owners and workers, and various government initiatives. But deaths of garment workers outside factories have sparked renewed concern. Non- governmental organization Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies (BILS) says that in 2020, 25 workers died in attacks and violence outside garment factories. 47 people were injured. In 2021, this number increased to 30 people. The death toll rose to 40 in 2022. At this time 34 workers were injured. According to Rajekuzzaman Ratan, president of the Samajtantrik Sramik Front, intolerance among workers has increased in the post-Covid era. At that time, the incidence of dismissal of women workers in the garment sector was somewhat higher. It has an impact on the family. Added to this is a wage gap relative to inflation. All in all there has been a negative impact on the workers. He advised women workers to arrange accommodation next to garment factories for safe workplace. According to Bills data, 1,553 people died in garment factories in the last period (2011- 22). And at the same time 5 thousand 708 people were injured in the accident. According to Bills observation, workplace accidents occur due to inefficiency and negligence in chemical storage in factories, lack of fire fighting system, lack of emergency exits in some factory buildings or locked, lack of training of workers on safety and lack of regular fire drills. But now garment factory accidents are not like
before. It is constantly decreasing. When asked about the reason for the increase in the number of deaths of professional workers outside the factory, the general secretary of the Bangladesh Garment Workers Federation, an organization working with the workers of the garment industry, Bachchu Mia told Kal Kantha, "Now the main problem of the garment workers is wages. They are working overtime for less wages and not getting leave. As a result, there is a lack of entertainment. They are becoming irritable, their tolerance is decreasing, fights are increasing from there. He said that they are not only dying because of increasing violence. The death of workers is also increasing due to road accidents while commuting to and from factories. According to Bills, there are other causes of workplace accidents such as making electrical connections without safety precautions, starting motors with wet hands, working under overhead power lines, carrying iron rods along the sides of electrical
wires running along the sides of buildings, etc. Director of Bills Kohinoor Mahmud told Kal Kantha that the death rate of workers has decreased in all factories including the garment sector. This progress has been made possible by public-private efforts. He said, if the provisions of the labor law are followed properly, the factories will be more accident-free. Sekender Ali Meena, Executive Director of Safety and Rights, deals with workplace accidents. He said that one of the main reasons for workers' dissatisfaction is the non- adjustment of wages with the price of goods, layoffs. When the worker cannot get his needs met, his behavior becomes violent. In some cases, incidents such as loss of life are occurring. He said, ' This information has given us an opportunity for new thinking. Now we have to work on this.

11 thousand workers died in workplace accidents in 13 years

11 thousand 481 workers have died in workplace accidents in the last 13 years. Among them, construction workers died the most. During this time 2 thousand
304 workers died in this sector. As a percentage it is 20 percent of the total worker deaths.Next is the clothing sector. One thousand 704 workers died in this sector. As a percentage it is 14.8 percent of the total worker deaths. In third place is the non-institutional sector.For example, small factories like lathe factories. This information was obtained from the report of Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies (BILS). Bills' information is based mainly on newspaper reports. According to Bills, 42 workers died in the construction sector alone in the last six months (January-June) of this year. 69 people were injured. All of them are male workers. The National Building Code details the safety measures that a worker must take while on the job, but in most cases they are not followed. According to the National Building Construction Rules 2014,  it is mandatory for workers to wear helmets during work. Those involved in concrete work should wear gloves and eye protection glasses. Protective equipment like gloves, safety boots, aprons should be used while using welders and gas cutters. Belts have also been made mandatory for the safety of workers while working on top of buildings. When asked about the cause of labor accidents, Bills Executive Director Kohinur Mahmud told Kal Kantha that one of the main causes of workplace accidents is lack of safety. However, looking at the last six months, it can be said that workplace accidents are decreasing. One of the main reasons for this is that employers and workers are becoming more aware than before. He said that the fifth, sixth and seventh articles of the Labor Act clearly state that workers must be given safety at work. If this law is obeyed, accidents will be reduced. According to data provided by Bills, 1,34 workers were killed and 1,37 workers were injured at work in 2022. 99 percent of the victims were men. Workers are also victims of torture at workplace. Torture was the cause of death of 135 workers in 2022. 155 people were also injured. Last year the highest number of workers died in the transport sector; 499 people, which is 48 percent of the total deaths. The second highest number of deaths was in the construction sector, at 118. The third place was the agriculture sector, 112 people. Apart from this, 46 daily laborers, 44 in container depots, 43 fishermen and fishery workers, 22 electrical workers, 15 in shipping sector, 12 hotel-restaurant workers, 10 bricklayer workers, seven ship-breaking industry workers, six chemical factory workers and 100 workers died in other sectors. According to Bills observation, it is now an extremely risky sector due to the neglect of the safety of construction workers in the workplace. But the death in
this sector is less than before. It means that there is increasing awareness among both employers and workers about safety. However, the trend of building multi-storied buildings across the country including the capital is increasing. In that case it becomes necessary to provide life saving equipment for the workers. The owner and contractor must confirm this. Workers should also be made aware not to work in tall buildings without safety equipment. Because his entire family depends on this one worker. The death of the worker puts the entire family at financial risk. Children's education stopped in the family. Another major aspect of construction sector accidents is pedestrian fatalities. As per the building code, due to lack of safety measures, falling objects like rods and bricks are killing and injuring people nearby and pedestrians below the building. Bills says that due to negligence of employers, lack of awareness among workers, lack of proper implementation of labor laws and weakness of these laws, the incidents of unintentional deaths are happening. Bill's observations were, lack of good ladders in construction and lack of adequate lighting in ladders, haphazard placement of rods, sand and bricks; Non-use of nets or use of weak nets at workplaces, non-availability of cranes, non-availability of helmets and gloves, bare feet work, careless and unconscious entry into confined spaces, working in hot sun, use of faulty machinery, lack of rest; Accidents are caused by poor scaffolding, wall or ground pressure, not using belts while working while hanging, not using good shoes or boots, lack of modern equipment and faulty electrical lines. General Secretary of Building Construction Workers Union of Bangladesh (INSAB) Abdur Razzak told Kal Kantha that more than 37 lakh professionals are involved in this construction sector. In order to ensure the safety of workers, the Labor Act requires the formation of an 'Industrial Health Safety Committee' with representatives of employers, workers and local administration. Although there is a committee at the central level, there is no such committee at the grassroots level. As a result, it is not possible to coordinate with the employer or the employer to ensure the safety of the workers.

Higher investments in social protection a must to withstand inflation shocks _ undefined

Bangladesh walked a tightrope in 2022 with global impacts of the Ukraine Russia crisis building on the prolonged consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rising dollar prices together with stressed dollar supplies, a surge in import-induced cost-push inflation, declining foreign exchange reserves, and an ongoing energy crisis — these realities have placed our economy's resilience in question. These have aggravated already high budgetary pressures from responding to the pandemic's impacts for two years and made the path to Covid-19 recovery highly challenging. 

Bangladesh's inflationary pressures and their impacts on low and lower-middle income households stand out. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), general inflation peaked at 9.52% in August 2022, the highest in over 11 years, compared to 5.54% a year back. 

Food inflation drove the trend: it stood at 9.94% in August before marginally declining in the following months. Now non-food inflation has picked up pace and stood at 9.96% in December compared to 7% a year back. A breakdown of inflation trends in rural and urban areas also reveals that inflation is running much higher in rural areas than urban areas.

Even while inflation figures are coming down, BBS data highlights that wage growth of low and unskilled workers has not kept pace with inflation since April May 2022. This indicates that real wages are eroding with inflation, leaving low income groups vulnerable to poverty.

This also ties in with food security concerns emerging in the country. According to a December 2022 survey by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Bangladesh, 72% of 1,200 surveyed households cited rising food prices as their biggest concerns followed by income loss and increasing health expenses. Low-income groups are the most vulnerable. Within this group, households with disability and female 

headed households are worse off. Many are selling off assets, going into debt, or spending from savings to keep food on the table. 

Keeping inflation in check will continue to be a priority in 2023 amid global uncertainties. On the global front, there is no end in sight to the Ukraine war. But on a good note, the European Union is working to ease the transit of Russia's fertiliser exports through EU ports despite a fresh round of sanctions against Russia. 

While food and fertilisers were exempted from sanctions, Russian shipments were stuck because of legal uncertainty around handling such cargoes. This pushed up food and fertiliser prices in a context where global fertiliser prices had already doubled since May 2020. The move may relieve the fertiliser crisis that heightened food security challenges in developing and poor countries worldwide. Bangladesh may also benefit as it relies heavily on imports to meet its fertiliser demand. 

Trends in global gas and oil prices will continue to matter. While global oil prices are down from their June highs, they will still be volatile as per World Bank's forecast. The volatility is likely to be driven by demand concerns riding on global recession fears as well as China's prospective reopening even as it battles Covid-19 fresh waves.

Expectations of a tightening global oil market with a potential fall in Russian oil supply given new sanctions and prospective OPEC+ supply cuts in 2023 will also weigh on price trends. Moreover, while crude oil prices typically dominate headlines, the global oil refining sector has also been volatile with its own set of capacity constraints and has affected global refined oil product prices. 

Second, global liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices are likely to remain high. Europe has been racing to substitute its heavy dependence on Russian gas with LNG among other sources in 2022. In the process, it has been outbidding Asian buyers of LNG to build up stocks. This competition is likely to intensify in 2023 especially if China fully reopens. 

What do these mean for Bangladesh? In 2022, we already saw how high imported energy costs aggravated Bangladesh's domestic natural gas crisis and highlighted the ramifications of lack of a diversified energy supply chain. LNG imports were suspended in July due to steep global prices. The gas-dependent power sector suffered as it had to rely heavily on costly imported oil-based electricity generation. 

But managing high import costs while addressing an uncertain electricity crisis became a tough balancing act for Bangladesh especially during the summer months. Together with deep-rooted subsidy management and governance concerns in the energy and power sectors, subsequent policy measures and flip flops including the fuel price hike in August worsened challenges. Power generation costs went up and deepened shocks for sectors already hurt by the gas crisis and frequent power cuts.

The agriculture sector was doubly hit. Farmers were pushed towards supplementary irrigation when they faced a water crisis (record low rainfall) during the key rice plantation season. With over 80% of Bangladesh's irrigation system depending on diesel-run shallow tube wells, irrigation costs surged with the diesel price hike. Overall, farming costs substantially rose as spikes in fertiliser prices despite subsidies also aggravated the situation. These developments contributed to inflation peaking in August and its impacts as discussed earlier. 

Outlook for poverty situation 

Bangladesh needs to remain alert as inflationary risks remain together with energy related challenges. On a good note, other major macroeconomic indicators such as exports earnings and remittance growth have picked up despite bumps. 

Nonetheless, inflationary pressure and its impacts continue to overshadow these positive developments chiefly due to prevailing high income inequality in the country. Tied together with falling real wages and continued uncertainties, 2023 calls for greater efforts for targeted strategies especially for the poor and vulnerable. 

Expanding and deepening social protection efforts especially for low-income groups are a must. Recent studies highlight that those on low fixed incomes and who are outside social protection coverage are depleting savings or lowering livelihood conditions. Bangladesh has already been working to extend support through market interventions like Open Market Sales as well as its food-friendly Vulnerable Group Development and Vulnerable Group Feeding programmes. Considering inflation, resuming the "mid-day meal" programme for primary students can also support children at risk of food security and malnutrition.

With climbing prices of non-food essentials, Bangladesh also needs to better monitor trading syndicates attempting to profit off the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. Temporary job creation schemes for those seasonally unemployed should also be extended for a longer period. 

At the same time, inflation control measures should be taken with caution so that employment generation is not hampered. On a positive note, monetary policy is playing a balancing role to control inflation while supporting job growth.   

While 2023 will possibly continue to test Bangladesh's economic resilience to shocks, we remain hopeful that it will overcome challenges with continued efforts for addressing poverty and vulnerability. Once again, investments in social protection will be a critical pillar for doing so. But the changing nature of cascading polycrisis that Bangladesh is experiencing means that the objectives of social protection must be ambitiously set and help bolster people's capability to manage risks. 

In other words, access to essential social services like education and health as well as economic empowerment opportunities must also be part of policy responses. Here, for example, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting Bangladesh to develop a shock-responsive, inclusive social protection system through implementation of the latter's long-term National Social Security Strategy (NSSS). 

This can offer an opportunity for coordinated policy responses that help mitigate the poverty impacts of inflation and build people's ability to withstand continued shocks. Most importantly, by keeping the most vulnerable in focus, it can contribute to efforts to leave no one behind in an uncertain 2023.


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