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Bangladesh - July 3, 2021

Labour law does not ensure justice at workplace in BD

These 80 cases were disposed of by Labour Courts in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Khulna and Chittagong between 2008 and 2019.

Special Correspondent: Existing labour law has failed to ensure justice and compensation for workers killed and injured at the workplace, a latest study has observed.
The study found that different labour courts took 630 days on average to award compensation compared to the 60-day time limit mentioned in labour law.
The observations and findings were presented during a virtual webinar organised by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) recently.
The report styled ‘Tire Them Out: Challenges of litigating compensation claims under the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006’ published by BLAST aims to fill this gap and unearth the common hurdles faced by injured workers and family members of deceased workers when they seek compensation in labour courts. Taqbir Huda, research specialist, BLAST and author of the report, presented it.
The report presents findings from 80 compensation cases under the Bangladesh Labour Act (BLA) 2006 Labour Courts where BLAST (in collaboration with Safety and Rights Society, and, OSHE Bangladesh) has represented claimants or sued on their behalf.
These 80 cases were disposed of by Labour Courts in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Khulna and Chittagong between 2008 and 2019.
The study was conducted from 2018 to 2020, with support from Laudes Foundation.
The current compensation framework under labour law is widely criticised to be inefficient while there is little empirical data and analysis available to assess how it has functioned in practice, the study stated. The study also finds that out of these 80 cases, the different labour courts ordered compensation in 35 cases, while it rejected the claim in 36 cases while in the remaining 09 cases the parties reached an out of court settlement before the Labour Court could pronounce a judgment.
The study also recommended that to remove limits on compensation, the government should amend the Fifth Schedule to the BLA, so the existing statutorily capped lump sum amounts, which are extremely inadequate and arbitrary, are treated as the minimum amount of compensation payable in the event of death or permanent disablement.
It also urged the government to introduce a strict monitoring mechanism to ensure timely disposal of labour court cases in line with the statutory limit and stipulate disciplinary consequences if the limit is breached, so it is more likely to have a binding effect in practice.
Speaking at the function, Dr Wajedul Islam Khan, general secretary, Bangladesh Trade Union Centre and Joint Secretary General, Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) said merely doubling the amount of compensation fixed in law (as was done in 2018 Amendment) can never be the solution.
Calculating compensation based on the total loss of earnings, pain and suffering of the victims etc. is the only rightful way, he added.
AKM Nasim, advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and deputy country director, Solidarity Center Bangladesh said labour law requires immediate reform.
However, any reform of the labour law must be a tripartite effort – where workers representation is ensured, he added.
Citing the report, Sara Hossain, honorary executive director, BLAST said when victims of injustice such as workplace deaths and injuries seek justice in labour courts they are subject to another set of injustices, whereby continuing the court case becomes an extremely costly endeavour.
Sunzida Sultana, acting executive director, Karmojibi Nari said as the report has shown, the fixed amount of compensation is leading to injustice. Compensation can never be fixed.
Dr Kamal Hossain, an eminent jurist, laid emphasis on removing the existing limit on compensation in our labour law so that victims receive adequate relief.
A national database needs to be established which tracks the number of workers killed and injured at the workplace across the country, and also tracks whether they have been given compensation or not, he added.

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