Strengthening Garment Workers’ Access to Legal Aid in Bangladesh (SGW)



Project Name: 
Strengthening Garment Workers’ Access to Legal Aid in Bangladesh

Project Period: 16 March 2015 – 30 November 2016

Working Area: Dhaka, Bangladesh

Donors: The Asia Foundation

Context:

There are more than four million men and women working in Bangladesh’s more than 5,000 garment factories. These garment workers generate more than 80 percent of the country’s export income. Therefore, the issues around the rights of garment workers, a majority of whom are women, are among the most critical issues facing Bangladesh today. Typical violations of workers’ rights include delays or nonpayment of wages and associated benefits, issues related to worker safety and security, and the overall economic exploitation of workers employed both in the formal and informal sectors.

In July 2013, the Bangladesh Parliament amended the Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006, (BLA) in response to mass protests and international pressure following the April 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza killed more than 1,100 workers. In November 2012, a fire at the Tazreen Factory in Ashulia claimed the lives of more than 100 workers. The amended BLA boosts worker rights, including the freedom to form trade unions; however, there is still much work to be done toward the adoption, implementation, and enforcement of a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework that supports workers’ rights and protects garment workers who have been faced with tragic and preventable factory accident for years.

The Rana Plaza disaster served as a catalyst for demands for change by garment workers, labor rights advocates, and international buyers. Following the tragedy, workers held mass protests demanding the doubling of minimum wage and better benefits and working conditions. However, garment owners and other stakeholders have been reluctant to address worker demands. It is clear that the majority of Bangladeshi garment workers, event those directly impacted by the collapse of Rana Plaza, have found little recourse to ensure their own safety and that their rights are protected, often resorting to strikes and public protests.

In this context, there is an urgent need to ensure that garment workers are aware of and understand their rights under the BLA and have the tools to resolve such issues peacefully and constructively when they arise in the workplace.

Goal:Provide critical support to ongoing efforts to protect garment workers’ rights in Bangladesh by promoting greater awareness about and access to legal aid and justice.

Objectives:

  1. Build Awareness among readymade garment (RMG) workers regarding the BLA, how to access legal aid, and workplace conflict resolution methods in a non-confrontational way
  2. Foster relationships with RMG factory owners and management to increase understanding about mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in order to increase the utilization of mediation and ADR to resolve disputes between factories and workers to satisfaction of both parties
  3. Provide a tested comprehensive package of legal advice and aid to RMG workers.


Activities:

  • Exchange of Views Workshop: Two meetings with participants representing various relevant stakeholders including garment owners, managers, and workers, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), factory associations, government legal aid providers, to solicit input regarding the content of the awareness and outreach component of the project
  • Legal Advice and Legal Aid: Monthly rights education sessions, primary legal advice on available remedies and options, next steps, feasibility, selection of appropriate lawyers, etc., and legal aid, including mediation services
  • Awareness Building and Community Outreach: Awareness events coupled with posters and other printed materials, to ensure that RMG workers in the target community have a basic understanding of the BLA and are aware of the legal services provided. Also other critical stakeholders including RMG factory workers, local administration and law enforcement agencies will be engaged in a series of labor rights awareness events.


Expected Results:

RMG workers in the target community are more aware and have a better understanding of their fundamental rights

RMG workers in the target community have improved access to legal aid services

RMG workersin the target community are better able to resolve conflict and disputes early on, through out-of-court mediation or settlement prior to court hearings

The number of disputes successfully resolved through ADR and mediation increases in the target community

 

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