ORGANISING WORKERS IN INFORMAL SECTOR
According to study by various research institutions and available government statistics reveals that the number of total working population (15+) is 49.5 million, our of which about 90% is unemployed in informal sector due to closure of state owned enterprises after denationalization. The most important informal sector in Bangladesh is agriculture, construction, hawker, transport, fisheries, hotel restaurant and tailoring etc.
Due to squeeze of formal sector and expansion of informal sector witness a major change in national/regional/local socio-economic situations as well as changes in labour and employment situation. The social status of a permanent worker is much higher than a workers in the informal sector. A permanent worker of a factory/industry/enterprise has more confidence on him as he gets every essential commodity from a shopkeeper on credit as he is sure to pay when he receives the monthly or weekly wage. As informal sector workers have no insurance of getting wage he does not get essential commodities from the shopkeepers on credit.
Jobless workers become poor. Social status and family status become lower. They cannot take proper decision out of frustration, uncertain earning. Formal sector workers when they enter in to informal sector they face many problems/challenges due to change of nature of jobs earning and lifestyle.
Instead of regular income become a irregular income. Education of their children close down, due to change the permanent job many cases housewife compel to join domestic work.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT IN INFORMAL SECTOR
No terms and conditions of employment in informal sector. No job security, no appointment letter, no identity card, no child care facilities, no maternity leave, no bonus, low wages, no overtime, working condition is very poor.
INDUSTRIAL RELATION SITUATION
Industrial relation situation is weak and does not cover existing labour laws. Social dialogue is very limited and collecting bargaining is very weak.
Bangladesh Labour Law 2006; new initiatives being taken by government that same work in a particular area can form union or increase membership.
Sector wise federation can advise or participate in discussion, collective bargaining issues with the management directly.
It has taken initiatives some issues like working hours, overtime, increase in wages, improvement of OHS conditions at their workplaces.
CASE STUDY OF SUCCESSFUL ORGANISING
ICFTU-AP/ICFTU-BC Organizing Tailoring Workers Project (January-December 2006). Organizing tailoring workers in Dhaka adjacent area. Organizing seminar for project organizer 5 from each federation (5 federation) total 25 participant attended the seminar which was held in Dhaka. Duration was 5 days. These 25 organizers selected their organizing target areas. They started survey and camping at their target areas. There they recruit some key persons. Organizing work started with the cooperation of national center. Education Secretary of their respective organizations was responsible to coordinate the whole activity.
BMSF got the two Union Registered from the JDL and BJSD also got two unions registered and both the federations increased membership and others federation got 5 Union Registered. That was the one major example of successful organizing in informal sector.
MAJOR DIFFICULTY IN ORGANIZING
1. Inadequate labour laws which does not allow informal workers to be unionized.
2. Lack of education/awareness about their rights.
3. Non cooperation of employers.
4. Lack of resources both human and financial.
TOP PRIORITY OF ACTION PROGRAM
1. Work for organizing.
2. Work for labour law improvement and implementation.
3. Work for improving working condition.
Women of Bangladesh have been rendering valuable service as labour in the informal economy industry domestic work, tailoring, cottage, industries, handicrafts, construction etc for a long time and contributing to family and national economy. But it is unfortunate that their contribution has hardly received recognization nationally. They are not recognized as labour under labour laws. Discrimination in all areas of employment in predominant.
Our union policy is to integrate and involve more women workers in trade union organization and activities. BMSF and BJSD formed women’s committee in national and divisional level to carryout women’s activities. The member of active women activists are increasing and the attitude of activist to take part trade union activities are also increasing. National center always gives importance to women issues to strengthen trade union organization as their member is ever increasing. Increasing membership of women workers in trade union deserves much more attention than ever before.
Humayun Parvez Khan
Dhaka Zilla Building Construction Workers Union