Labour leaders have lauded the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, for her announcement on workers’ welfare across the board, including reopening of closed industrial units with workers-owners partnership.
They also doubted whether vested quarters within the administration would allow her to implement her plans so easily as her pledge goes against the existing policy of privatisation prescribed by international lenders.
‘We are delighted with her [the prime minister’s] announcement that covered many aspects of the workers’ rights. But the big question is how her plans would be implemented,’ Wajed-ul Islam Khan, general secretary of the Bangladesh Trade Union Centre, told New Age Saturday.
Some other labour leaders echoed Wajed.
The prime minister, while addressing a May Day rally on Friday, announced she would take measures to reopen the closed mills and factories ensuring workers’ partnership.
Hasina listed a number of measures in line with the 2008 election pledges that included a permanent wage commission for a minimum wage for industrial workers, amendment of labour laws in conformity with the International Labour Organisation convention and introduction of food rationing.
Reopening of the closed industrial units would not be an easy task at this moment. The government will need to see which are the industries that would make profit, said Wajed, adding his organisation will extend support to help translate the prime minister’s announcement into reality.
‘Unless there is pressure from the labour unions, the announcement would not come into reality,’ viewed the labour leader.
The prime minister mentioned that as many as 4,000 mills and factories remained closed and she would make sure that they are reopened.
Sahidullah Chowdhury, chief of the Workers Party’s associate body of labourers, suggested the government should immediately reopen 50 state-owned industries, which are among nearly 1,000 industrial units in public sector shut during the last decades. It would help employ more that 200,000 workers.
But he doubted if the implementation of the prime minister’s announcement to reopen the industrial units could go against the existing policy of privatisation, suggested by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
‘We have no question about the prime minister’s sincerity; but most of her policy makers are agents of the international lenders. She may face difficulty to implement it,’ said the Workers Party leader.
According to official statistics, the Privatisation Commission has listed 21 state-owned projects for handover to private sector. As per the government plan, bidding was invited for three of those units.
Criticising the government’s ‘contradictory’ stance, Mushrefa Mishu, a garment sector union leader, said the prime minister should first explain her policy and then come up with announcement.
‘Otherwise, people will take her speech as a cheap political rhetoric. We will believe her only when her announcements are implemented,’ she said, adding that many statements issued by the past prime ministers for workers’ welfare proved hollow.
Hasina told a rally on Friday that her party never believes in shutting down the mills and factories in the name of losing concerns and assured the gathering that no industrial units would be closed during the tenure of her present government.
Source: The Daily New Age, 03 May 2009