Invest in social justice to build peaceful, inclusive societies worldwide: HPM Sheikh Hasina at the World of Work Summit 2023

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Published on June 15, 2023
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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the global community to invest in social justice in an effort to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies worldwide.

"We can achieve lasting peace and sustainable development on the foundation of social justice. We must invest in social justice in our efforts to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies worldwide," she said, addressing the Plenary of "World of Work Summit 2023" at Palais de Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

She said that the summit, with the launch of the Global Coalition, has created an opportunity to place social justice at the heart of all international development agenda, including SDGs.

In this context, Sheikh Hasina made five suggestions from Bangladesh's viewpoint.

In her first point, she said that it would be advisable to develop the Coalition as a consultative or advocacy platform rather than as a norm-setting or negotiating forum.

Secondly, the Coalition must guard against weaponising "social justice" by one international quarter against the other in the current geopolitical context, she said.

Thirdly, the Coalition should make sure that instead of being used as a protectionist tool, social justice should be widely promoted under a rules-based multilateral trading system, she added.

Fourthly, she said, the Coalition needs to ensure broad-based support from ILO's own constituents with a view to enlisting the International Financial Institutions for the purpose of promoting decent work and productive employment.

Finally, the Coalition should give attention to making our youth champion social justice, said the premier.

"We need to develop a new Social Contract for our world to address the multidimensional challenges of the present century," Sheikh Hasina said, adding, "The main objective of this social contract would be to ensure social justice for all for the purpose of sustainable development."

Mentioning that Bangladesh is a signatory to eight of the 10 fundamental ILO Conventions on labour rights protection, the Prime Minister said, "We are actively considering ratification of the two new fundamental ILO Conventions concerning occupational health and safety."

She said it is a matter of great regret that certain developed countries that are otherwise vocal about labour rights have not themselves ratified most of the fundamental ILO Conventions. For instance, a major industrialized country has signed only two fundamental Conventions, she added.

Bangladesh has recently signed ILO Convention 138 on determining the minimum age for child labour.

To this end, the premier said her government has declared eight hazardous sectors to be free of child labour.

Besides, in fiscal year 2023-24, a programme is underway to rehabilitate 100,000 children engaged in hazardous work by providing them with non-formal and technical education, she said.

She added: "I want the country to be free from the scourge of child labour for the sake of a healthy and secure future generation."

Sheikh Hasina said that they have followed ILO's recommendations to amend the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 twice in 2013 and 2018.

Moreover, amendments have been made to the Bangladesh Labour Rules, 2015. In addition, Bangladesh is working on further amendments to the Labour Act, 2006 by this year, and has already given approval for applying Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 in the Special Economic Zones.

Alongside the Labor Appellate Tribunal and seven Labour Courts, six additional Labour Courts have been set up by the present Awami League government. In addition, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms are being institutionalized with participation of social partners. Besides, an "Industrial Police" unit has been formed for promoting sound industrial relations.

 

The Prime Minister said that the safety and working environment of all ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh have been assessed and the export-oriented ones have been remedied accordingly.

Mentioning that more than half of the world's top 100 environment-friendly garment factories are now located in Bangladesh, she said, "To take forward this achievement, we've formulated a 'Green Factory Award Policy', and I hope our international buyers would encourage such eco-friendly initiatives by paying fair prices for the products."

Sheikh Hasina said that her government is setting up a "National Research and Training Institute on Occupational Health and Safety" and specialized doctors are providing regular medical service to workers through 32 Labour Welfare Centers.

She said that they have increased the number of labour inspectors to 711 to ensure safety at workplaces. A web-based "Labour Inspection Management Application (LIMA)" has been launched with ILO's technical assistance, she added.

The premier said a Tripartite Consultative Council (TCC) comprising representatives of workers, employers and the government continues to monitor and advance the overall labour situation in the country. A separate TCC has been constituted for the apparel industry.

"It was our government that increased the minimum wage for garment workers from Taka 1,600 to Taka 8,000," she said, adding: "We've plans to formulate a policy framework to determine minimum wages through collective bargaining in different industrial sectors."

Sheikh Hasina also highlighted different initiatives taken by her government for labourers such as online trade union registration. The rate of trade union registration has increased from 60 percent in 2013 to 90 percent in 2022, the number of trade unions in the garments sector has increased nine-fold in the last nine years, she added.

In addition, workers and employers are being regularly trained on the trade union registration process and two separate toll-free help-lines have been launched for Export Processing Zones (EPZ) and non-EPZ areas, she said.

Besides, databases are being developed with particulars of garment factory workers to ensure transparency and discipline in administering their remuneration and other benefits, she added.

The head of government said a provision has been included in the Labour Act for four months' paid leave and maternity benefits for female workers and accommodation facilities have been made available for 1,530 working women at affordable price in Narayanganj and Chattogram industrial areas.

Besides, 6,430 day-care centers have been set up in different factories and establishments, she said, adding, "We've called for 'zero-tolerance' to all forms of violence or harassment against women in industries and workplaces."

"Recently, I've given directives to explore ways to factor in women's unpaid domestic work in our national GDP," she continued.

Under the aegis of 'Bangladesh Labour Welfare Foundation', she said that the workers and their family members receive financial assistance in various sectors.

In addition, a "Central Fund" has been established under the Ministry of Labour and Employment for supporting the socio-economic development of workers in export-oriented industries along with their families. In 2022, an "Employment Injury Insurance Scheme" was launched on a pilot basis for workers in the garments sector.

The Prime Minister said that her government has made a commitment to build a "Smart Bangladesh" in line with its Vision-2041.

To that end, a special allocation of US$ 9.2 million has been made in next fiscal year's budget for research and development, she said, adding, some 80,000 young men and women will be trained in advanced technologies through Research and Innovation Centres under various Universities.

She added that 650,000 IT freelancers in the country have been registered to bring them into the folds of the mainstream economy, she added.

Sheikh Hasina said that they have set a target to increase enrollment rate in technical education from the current 17 percent to 30 percent by 2030. "We are setting up specialized institutes for ocean research, aeronautics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and frontier technology to prepare our youth for the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

She said that they have established the "Expatriates' Welfare Bank" to help reduce overall migration costs and provide easy loans to migrant workers. "Bangladesh continues to play a leading role in ensuring safe, orderly and regular migration."

The Prime Minister urged the international community to pay heed to climate change impacts on human mobility and overall work environment.

She said that after the assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members, the military dictators used to run the country.

She mentioned that after coming back to the country in 1981, she got the opportunity to form the government in 1996.

"I started to work to change the lot of the country's people, my only aim is to change their fate and make Bangladesh a peaceful and developed Sonar Bangla, I have dedicated my life for the toiling masses of Bangladesh," she said.