Staff Correspondent, NewAge, September 8, 2008
The military-controlled interim government has conditionally relaxed ban on trade unionism across the country about 19 months inside the declaration of the state of emergency amid pressure from various quarters at home and abroad.
The home affairs ministry has issued a gazette notification with immediate effect setting the conditions for trade union activities indoors including elections to collective bargaining agents in industrial units, commercial organisations and other institutes under the Emergency Powers Rules 2007.
The gazette notification, issued on September 4, was made available on Sunday. Labour leaders, however, rejected the conditional, partial withdrawal of the ban. Demanding a complete withdrawal of the ban, they said conditional or partial trade unionism would not be of much help to protect labourer’s rights by ensuring healthy industrial relations.
According to the gazette notification, trade union activities will be allowed indoors on a limited scale and elections to collective bargaining agents can be conducted with permission from the metropolitan police commissioner or the district magistrate concerned.
‘The police commissioner, district magistrate or upazila nirbahi officer depending as applicable must be informed 48 hours before holding any trade union meetings where not more than 100 persons can participate,’ the home ministry order said. ‘For participation of more than 100 persons, the trade bodies concerned must take permission 72 hours before the meetings from the authorities concerned who can allow maximum 500 people to attend.’
‘The unions would not be allowed to hold meetings in open space. The meetings will only discuss and make decisions on matters related to organisations and workers’ interests. Discussions on politics or other matters would not be allowed,’ said the order, adding live broadcast or telecast of trade union meetings on electronic media has been prohibited. But news items in this regard can be aired as part of regular news bulletins.
Use of PA system to make meeting activities reach outside the venue would not be allowed, according to the home ministry gazette, published on September 3, but made public on September 7. The government of Fakhruddin Ahmed enforced the Emergency Powers Rules on January 25, 2007 restricting political and civil rights, including trade unionism, with effect from January 11, 2007 against the backdrop of political violence.
The ban on political activities was conditionally relaxed for Dhaka in September 2007 and for other areas of the country in May.
Labour leader Abul Basher, also the convener of the Jute, Yarn and Textile Mills Workers and Employees’ Action Council, said they did not want trade unionism on a limited scale. It would not hep the workers to establish their rights.
‘We want full-scale trade unionism and it is our basic rights. We do not want mercy,’ he said. ‘We have enjoyed trade union rights under the martial law of Ayub Khan and now the rights have been seized under the state of emergency.’
The Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad coordinator, Wazedul Islam Khan, also the general secretary of the Trade Union Centre, said it was nothing but effort to make people believe that the government was doing something. ‘Trade union rights can not be given partially.’
Labourers will not be able to establish their rights with a limited-scale trade unionism, he said.
The Sramik League president, Abdul Matin Master, said they would first observe how much of labour rights could be ensured with a limited-scale trade unionism.