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Cablegate: Bangladesh Epz Labor Elections Lurch Forward

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Since Parliament's passage in 2004 of legislation to
extend international labor standards to Bangladesh's Export
Processing Zones (EPZ), local AFL-CIO Solidary Center (SC)
representative Rob Wayss has closely monitored
implementation, including the elections starting in December
to the interim Worker Representation and Welfare Committees
(WRWC). Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA)
Chairman Mohammed Zakir Hussain told us on April 5 that he
hoped to hold elections in all 210 registered EPZ companies
by the end of May; thus far, 99 factories have held elections.

2. (SBU) Wayss recently told us that, based on its
discussions with workers inside and outside the factories, SC
sees five areas of concern:

A) Elections are occurring at a slow pace;

B) Workers are not receiving sufficient information from
BEPZA or the employers on the law, election procedures, or on
the work of the WRWC;

C) There is a pattern of employer interference in the
elections. For example, employers in several cases provided
copies of the new law or WRWC election procedures only to
favored employees, and in one case an employer openly
endorsed specific WRWC candidates through the factory PA

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D) Retaliation against employees who express interest in
running for the WRWC. Workers at a factory in Chittagong
visited by Wayss had had their status changed from permanent
to temporary employees, or had been demoted from quality
control inspectors to cleaners; and

E) WRWC at companies where elections have been held have yet
to follow the law and hold any negotiations between the WRWC
and the company.

3. (SBU) Hussain told us that BEPZA has disseminated copies
of the EPZ Workers Association and Industrial Relations Act
2004 to companies to distribute to workers and has conducted
awareness training for WRWC members and HR officials of 50
companies. Additionally, he said, BEPZA is preparing a
handbook for members of WRWC and general workers, and has no
record of employer interference in the elections process.
BEPZA also denies any knowledge of companies firing,
suspending, or demoting workers in relation to WRWC elections.

4. (SBU) Comment: We will continue to monitor and observe
where possible WRWC elections in the EPZ factories. During a
scheduled meeting with BEPZA Chairman Hussain next week, we
intend to press for full implementation of the new labor law.
The April 11 garment factory collapse in the Savar EPZ
(reftel) may heighten domestic and international scrutiny of
labor conditions in Bangladesh's EPZ.

© Scoop Media

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