Bangladesh - Government refuses to register trade unions

There have been many reports of unions in the ready-made garment industry having had their applications for registration frustrated by the state and/or factory owners. In these cases, the trade unions seeking registration are refused or delayed.

For example, Basic Apparels in Uttara terminated 72 workers and union members, including three executive committee members, after they submitted an application for registration in September 2013. The union registration application was still pending in February 2014.

A report released in August 2014 stated that there are trade unions at only two per cent of factories the management of which are members of employer associations Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

However, 73 per cent of the BGMEA and the BKMEA factories and 89 per cent of non-member factories have participation committees. Participation committee is a body manned by representatives from both factory owners and workers. Trade union leaders term this committee as “pocket committee” of factory owners which actually works to favour owners.

In late November 2014, the State Minister for Labour Mujibul Haque Chunnu expressed the view that multiple trade unions would be bad for the RMG sector. When speaking to the council of Bangladesh Trade Unions, Minister Chunnu is reported to have said: “I don’t understand what good so many trade unions will do. Cambodia’s garment sector suffered a huge blow for approving too many trade unions.”

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