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Statement on Bangladesh (Convention N° 87)

International Labour Conference, 104th session, Committee for the Application of Standards, June 5th 2015, individual case on Bangladesh on Convention N° 87 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize

Thank you, Chair. I’m speaking on behalf of the Governments of Iceland and Norway.

1. Freedom of Association is part of the foundation on which all other democratic rights and freedoms rest. It is essential that the activities of trade unions are not unjustifiably curtailed, and trade unionists should under no circumstance face intimidation, violence or harassment.

2. We thank the government of Bangladesh for the information provided to the conference. We also welcome the investigations made of complaints and the progress in the registrations of trade unions, especially in the ready-made garments sector, since the revisions of the labour law. However, more than two years after the Rana Plaza tragedy we remain concerned about working conditions in Bangladesh, also with respect to the Freedom of Association. We note with regret the obstacles facing trade unions and workers exercising their right to Freedom of Association, the lengthy legal processes for the registration of trade unions and the high threshold for membership requirement to form unions.

3. We recall the responsibility of every state to promote and protect human rights and urge the Government of Bangladesh to further strengthen its efforts to ensure that the Freedom of Association for trade unionists is respected and their protection is guaranteed. 

4. We urge the government to act expeditiously and decisively when it comes to the investigation, prosecution and conviction of the perpetrators of violence against trade unionists as well as cases of harassment. Similarly, we urge the Government to act expeditiously to ensure the protection of trade union officials and members and to continue its reform efforts to bring both law and practice into compliance with Convention 87.

5. Recognizing the significance of the ready-made garments industry to the economy and their contributions to development, we emphasize that the Decent Work Agenda, including Freedom of Association, occupational safety and health and decent wages, is of utmost importance to secure an industry that ensures sustainable and inclusive economic development in the long run. We urge the Government to continue to strengthen its cooperation with the social partners, producers and buyers to take measures to ensure responsible supply chains, in line with ILO standards and corporate social responsibility principles.

6. We urge the Government to cooperate fully and to respond in substance to the requests made by the Committee of Experts and we endorse the efforts by the Office in this regard. We strongly advise the government of Bangladesh to continue to fully avail itself of the technical assistance of the ILO.

Thank you, Chair