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Mixed reaction from business leaders on trade union activities in EPZs

(from left)  Akram Uddin Ahmed, Atiqul Islam, Aftab Ul Islam, Anisul Huq, Rokia Afzal Rahman

(from left) Akram Uddin Ahmed, Atiqul Islam, Aftab Ul Islam, Anisul Huq, Rokia Afzal Rahman

DHAKA, NOV 18: Leading entrepreneurs and chamber leaders have expressed diverse reactions over allowing  trade union activities in the country’s Export Processing Zones (EPZs).

Most of them have expressed fears that such activities might spoil the work environment and hamper production. The entrepreneurs have observed that trade union activities are likely to affect production in mills and factories in EPZs. It may be mentioned that EPZs are hitherto protected by law from such activities.

“The government should think seriously about the issue before allowing trade union activities in EPZs that safeguard the interest of foreign investors,??? said Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).

The FBCCI chief underscored the need for discussions on the issue before any final decision in this regard, expressing his concern over the hasty move.

The government, in principle, has recently decided to allow factory workers in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) to form trade unions from January 1, 2014, as part of its measures to fulfil the conditions set by the United States Trade Representative (USTR). As per the new decision, the workers will enjoy the right to call strikes and they would not be blacklisted for trade union activities. They will also enjoy the freedom to organise and form trade unions.

Some of the chamber leaders, however, spoke in favour of workers’ right, adding that the workers must be provided with a platform to raise their voice and allowed to settle their issues with their employers. They, however, warned that there must be some sort of balance. Some of the chamber leaders, however, spoke in favour of workers’ right, adding that the workers must be provided with a platform to raise their voice and allowed to settle their issues with their employers. They, however, warned that there must be some sort of balance.

“There should be elected representatives of workers to bargain with the management or owners at the factory level,??? said Aftab Ul Islam, president of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).

He, however, said that there should not be any political affiliation and trade unions must work wholeheartedly for the development of the industry.

Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Rokia Afzal Rahman also expressed a similar view, terming trade union activities as a demand of time. But the freedom to enjoy labour rights should not be abused or be allowed to destroy the congenial working atmosphere.

Former FBCCI president Annisul Huq, however, strongly advocated for labour rights both in EPZs and outside them. “EPZs were protected by law for a certain period of time, but this should not continue forever,??? he added.

Huq, also a former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said that the situation may change any time. He mentioned that in recent times, foreign investors are investing outside the EPZs while locals are investing in the EPZs.

The recent labour unrest in Ashulia and Gazipur has raised concerns among global buyers. The prolonged labour unrest in the area has also shaken the confidence of local entrepreneurs.

“Because of the frequent unrest, many buyers threatened to shift their order to other countries,” said BGMEA president Atiqul Islam.

http://www.theindependentbd.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=193673:mixed-reaction-from-business-leaders&catid=110:business-others&Itemid=156

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