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BEPZA to set up fund to meet emergencies

FE Report | January 20, 2019 00:00:00

A fund would be set up with owners, buyers and workers of the companies operating in the country's eight export processing zones (EPZs), officials said.

The 'owners-buyers-workers' fund aims to meet expenses with regard to emergency support, social safety net and other development and administrative requirements.

A provision to this effect has been incorporated in the latest 'Bangladesh EPZ Labour Ordinance 2019'.

The government issued a gazette notification on January 15 in this connection.

The fund will have contributions from each purchase order, donation from buyers, government, foreign individual or companies, a certain amount from workers and profit from the fund's investment, it explained.

Certain rules would regulate the proposed fund's administration, management, utilisation of its money and other issues.

Labour inspection at factories within the EPZs is allowed in conformity with the labour law, said Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) general manager (public relations) Nazma Binte Alamgir.

The workers' representation requirement threshold to form 'Workers Welfare Association' (WWA) has also been reduced to 20 per cent from 30 per cent, she told the FE on Saturday.

"The process of forming the WWA has been simplified with lessening the phases to three from 12," Ms Alamgir mentioned.

According to the officials, the name 'Workers Welfare Association', however, remained unchanged, although workers would be able to enjoy freedom of association.

Earlier, 30 per cent workers' representation was needed to form a WWA at factories located in the EPZs.

Officials said inspection at EPZ factories is currently carried out by the BEPZA itself.

The inspectors of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments under labour ministry can now inspect EPZ factories apart from BEPZA officials.

The mandatory workers' representation for calling strike and lockout has also been lowered to two-thirds from three-fourths, according to the ordinance.

The changes followed pressure from both home and abroad, including International Labour Organization (ILO), European Union and the USA to streamline the EPZ labour law with the labour law.

Last February, an ILO expert committee suggested the government repeal or substantially amend provisions to ensure compatibility of the draft EPZ Labour Act with ILO conventions 87 and 98, industry insiders said.

At present, there are 474 different types of factories at all eight EPZs with nearly 0.5 million workers.

An estimated $4.69 billion has so far been invested in the EPZs and export earnings stood at $6.66 billion, according to the BEPZA data.

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