San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
The International Forum for Democratic Studies
at the National Endowment for Democracy
cordially invites you to a presentation entitled
“Strengthening Democratic Practices in Bangladesh:
Empowering Workers in Export Processing Zones”
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy
with comments by
Asia Regional Program Director, Solidarity Center
International Forum for Democratic Studies
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004
RSVP (acceptances only) with name and affiliation by Friday, February 7.
Freedom of association and collective bargaining rights for workers are integral components of a functioning democracy. Since 1972, the government of Bangladesh has been a party to the International Labor Organization’s two fundamental conventions guaranteeing freedom of association and collective bargaining rights to workers. When Export Processing Zones (EPZs) were established in the country in 1984, however, the government disregarded its pledge and prohibited workers in the zones from exercising these rights. The ban continued until 2004, when two successive laws granted limited rights to EPZ workers to form Workers’ Welfare Associations within their respective enterprises. Unfortunately, EPZ authorities and employers took advantage of certain loopholes in the law to create various obstacles to the formation and functioning of these associations, which now prevent workers from effectively exercising their rights. As industrial accidents have claimed the lives of more than 1,100 workers in 2013 alone, A.K.M. Nasim will argue in his presentation for the establishment of peaceful worker-employer relationships in the EPZs through associations that successfully represent the interests of EPZ workers. Mr. Nasim will also discuss appropriate roles for the government of Bangladesh, the International Labor Organization, corporations, employers, and workers. His presentation will be followed by comments by Tim Ryan.
Mr. A.K.M. Nasim is a senior legal counselor with the Dhaka office of the Solidarity Center. An experienced labor lawyer, he provides legal counseling and representation in industrial disputes to the unions and workers in Bangladesh’s Export Processing Zones (EPZs), the ready-made garment industry, and shrimp processing plants, as well as in Labor Courts and the Labor Appellate Tribunal. He is also an honorary legal counsel for the Domestic Workers Rights Network, a group of approximately twenty national trade union centers and human rights organizations that advocate legal recognition and protection for domestic workers in Bangladesh. In addition, he serves as the coordinator of the Committee for Justice for Aminul Islam, an organization campaigning for a proper investigation into the murder of Aminul Islam, a prominent union leader in the EPZs,who was brutally murdered in April 2012. Mr. Tim Ryan is the Asia regional program director at the Solidarity Center in Washington, D.C.