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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 69
May 24 , 2008

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Say 'NO' to Corruption
Laws relating to trade union needs amendment

Abu Noman Md. Atahar Ali and Zafrin Andaleeb

The ability to form a trade union by the labour is a constitutional right according to the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh under the 'right to association' in Article 38. In the last 36 years of independence of Bangladesh we have formed many trade unions for different industries and establishments. From the beginning, it has been an open secret that the trade union leaders are mostly corrupt. This frustrates the main objectives of the trade union exceedingly. Recently this picture has been highlighted because the present government has taken some innovative activities to eradicate corruption from Bangladesh as well as from the trade unions. The main objective of the trade union is to do welfare to the ordinary labour through the collective bargaining agent. The failure to implement the objective is of great concern as the labour are the foundation of civilisation and it is unfair to deprive them of their privileges.

In Chapter 13 of the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 different provisions have been incorporated from section 175 to 208 relating to trade union, registration of trade unions, rights of the president of trade union, unfair labour practice, CBA, etc. However, no express right of the general workers, which they can get by trade union, has been laid down in the Act. Some privileges and immunities are given to registered trade unions and its officers under section 197 and section 198 the Act of 2006 from imposing any penalty and filing any civil suit.

The real scenario of trade unions in Bangladesh
The trade unions of Bangladesh are ineffective in the application of their objectives. The leaders of the trade unions are corrupt; making it is impossible for the trade union leaders to do some welfare for the general labour. This is due to the fact that almost all the CBA leaders have an open secret understanding with the owners of the establishments, which lead them to the uninterrupted corruption and irregularity. The CBA leaders seldom see the interests of the labour. The monthly subscription given by the labour are not used for the their welfare. It is just used for the personal purpose of the leaders of the trade unions. Due to pressures from the trade union leaders, the workers are working hard, but they are not getting remuneration accordingly.

Reasons for corruption in trade unions
* The labour of Bangladesh are mostly illiterate. It makes them insecure and weak to fight against the corruption and ill practices.

* Most of the labour of Bangladesh do not know that, specifically for them, there is a law in Bangladesh named Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006. For the ignorance of trade union laws they cannot fight against the violation of their rights.

* Section 187 of the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 provides “no President, General Secretary, or Treasurer of any trade union shall be transferred from one district to another without his consent”. This section is a great weapon, which is manipulated by trade union leaders. By abusing this provision trade union leaders have the opportunity to stay in the same establishment and be connected with the local politics.

* In the third world countries most of the labour are so poor even they cannot live their lives hand to mouth. CBA leaders give them job in an industry requesting the owners with their influential powers. Usually, the labour gets the job by the CBA and never dares to speak against the leaders though he does many violation of trade union right of the labour.

* The owners always want the labour to work hard and gain profit. So, they use the trade union leaders as a weapon. When the labour gets heavy workload but does not get the expected remunerations, they usually go to the trade union leaders for the assurance of justice. In this situation the CBA leaders never speak on behalf of the labour as by then they have already taken the bribe from the owners to not fight for the labour right.

* The Bangladesh Labour Act provides that the inspectors will have the right to inspect the trade union activities, but inspectors seldom go to do it. Even if they go, the trade union leaders bribe them so that they never speak against the irregularities of the trade union.

* Lack of experienced and educated leaders among the labour is another reason of malpractice and corruption.

* A healthy democracy should be established in our country so that the labour can enjoy their fundamental rights to form any trade union. The mentality of the owners of the establishments should be changed.

* The Section 187 of the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 should be amended. The law can be amended to the effect that if any trade union leader is proved corrupted or many allegations are made against him for corruption, he can be suspended for a particular period of time or he can be transferred to any other backward district as a punishment.

* The law relating to trade union should be amended with provisions concerning the empowerment and welfare of the general labour. Suppose the trade union can help the family of a labour who faces any great problem, a cooperative society can be created for this purpose.

* The politics of the trade union leaders should be forbidden for certain period by amending the Constitution. The trade unions should not have any relations with any political party as there will always be an influence of the political ideology over the labour of trade unions and they will start to work to fulfil the political goal rather than to work for the benefit of the labour.

* The labour should be given a fair chance and should be given proper knowledge about their rights and fighting corruption related matters.

* The trade union leaders' corruption should be dealt with seriously. If one incident of corruption is properly taken care of then a sense of awareness will be created among all other leaders and workers.

* A special provision should be added in the Act for the penalty of the inspectors if they are convicted for the bribery from the industry owners.

* Corruption in registration of trade unions should be prevented by making the whole process of registration as a transparent one and by mentioning the powers and functions of the Registrar.

* The leadership of trade unions should be given to qualified, experienced, dedicated and committed leaders who are more likely to work for the labour as opposed to their own gain.

* Finally all the leaders and owners should change the wicked mentality.

The writers are lecturers of the Department of Law and Justice, Southeast University, Dhaka.


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