A segmented form of trade union activities focusing on a few sectors was unable to address the concerns of workers whose health and safety are in a vulnerable state amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Different tripartite discussions and negotiations that have been undertaken during this crisis have ensured limited success for workers and MSMEs in terms of coping with the risks and rebounding and recovery from the crisis.
The observations were made on Saturday at a virtual dialogue on ‘Recovery of the Labour Market during COVID-19: Role of Trade Union’, jointly organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), and the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS).
Syed Manzur Elahi, treasurer, CPD Board of Trustees and former advisor to the Caretaker Government and chairman of Apex Group chaired the dialogue.
There are as many as 8,551 trade unions, most of which are basic trade unions, said CPD Research Director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem in his keynote.
Unfortunately, the majority of workers are not unionised in the country, and only 4.2 per cent of the total labour force is active trade union members.
Trade union activities are observed in few sectors: transport (35.2 per cent of total workers involved in trade union-related activities), readymade garment (11.6 per cent), construction (6.9 per cent) and jute (4.6 per cent)
“During the covid pandemic, trade union activities are largely reflected in these sectors,” he said, adding such a segmented form of trade union activities was unable to address the concerns of workers who are mostly un-unionised.
Trade unions in Bangladesh need to revisit their activities and engagements during the pandemic and take lessons from other countries, he said suggesting identifying the areas of future engagement during the process of sustainable recovery.
Trade union policy strategy should focus on the world of work, particularly highlighting the workers of those who are organised and unorganised, he recommended.
He also emphasised effective social dialogues for the recovery of the labour market during Covid-19.