DHAKA: Bangladesh approved a Labour Law to boost worker rights on Monday, including the freedom to form trade unions, after a factory building collapse in April killed 1,132 garment workers and sparked debate over labour safety and rights.
The legislation puts in place provisions including a central fund to improve living standards of workers, a requirement for 5 percent of annual profits to be deposited in employee welfare funds and an assurance that union members will not be transferred to another factory of the same owner after labour unrest.
"The aim was to ensure workers' rights are strengthened and we have done that," Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, chairman of the parliamentary sub-committee on labour reforms said.
"I am hoping this will assuage global fears around this issue as well," Hossain said.
The legislation is seen as a crucial step towards curbing rising cases of exploitation in a country with 4 million garment factory workers. But activists said it failed to address several concerns and blamed the government for enacting the law in a hurry to please foreigners.
Bangladesh was under pressure to adopt a better Labour Law after the European Union, which gives preferential access to the country's garment industry, threatened punitive measures if it did not improve worker safety standards.
Tax concessions offered by Western countries and low wages have helped turn Bangladesh's garment sector into the country's largest employment generator with annual exports worth USD 21 billion. 60 percent of exports go to Europe.
The April 24 collapse of the Rana Plaza complex, built on swampy ground outside Dhaka with several illegal floors, ranked among the world's worst industrial accidents. A fire at another garment factory last year killed 112 people.


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