A Workers Resource Centre (WRC) which aims to build the capacity of trade unions in the Bangladesh Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector was launched at a ceremony held in Dhaka. A joint platform between two leading worker organisations – the National Coordination Committee on Workers Education (NCCWE) and the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) the WRC will help trade unions operate more effectively and provide better services to their members. The initiative is supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s Social Dialogue and Harmonious Industrial Relations project funded by Sweden and Denmark.

Speaking as a Chief Guest at the event, Hasanul HaqInu, Minister of Information welcomed the launch of the WRC. “The WRC should lead to a more effective union movement by fostering a culture of consultation, capacity building and information sharing. To ensure good governance in the RMG sector, dialogue and cooperation are critical. I hope that this process can go beyond the RMG industry and benefit workers in other sectors.”

The WRC will provide various services including advocacy, awareness raising and training on workers’ rights, dispute resolution, grievance handling, negotiation, collective bargaining as well as occupational safety and health. A team of paralegals is being put in place to provide legal advice to trade unions and federations to help address labour grievances and disputes. A call centre will help union members who wish to make complaints or ask advice. The WRC will also help promote the active participation of women in trade unions.

The WRC is run by a Board of Trustees representing the NCCWE and IBC federations. The WRC chair and vice chair posts will rotate amongst the Board of Trustees on a six monthly basis while the Board of Trustees will serve a two-year term. Sukkur Mahmud, President, Jatiyo Sramik League and Chairperson of the WRC highlighted how the new body would help create a stronger union movement, “The Workers Resource Centre will help build capacity as well as address fragmentation amongst trade unions operating in the garment sector. Ultimately, this will benefit workers and employers alike.”

Razequzzaman Ratan, Member-Secretary of NCCWE pointed out that without a congenial workplace atmosphere harmonious development cannot possible. “As an institution WRC will help workers to know more about laws and regulations, increase the ability of unions and improve dispute settlement skills. Through the WRC our workers will become more confident. Thanks must go to ILO, Sweden and Denmark for helping to create such a centre for workers.”

Meanwhile, Towhidur Rahman, Secretary General, IndustriALL Bangladesh Council highlighted the benefits the WRC would deliver at enterprise level. “Many new unions have formed in the RMG sector over recent years but it takes time and considerable expertise for a union to operate effectively. Through its support the Workers Resource Centre will help unions learn how to better negotiate agreements and represent its workers in RMG factories.”

Speaking at the event, Kamran TRahman, President of the Bangladesh Employer’s Federation (BEF) noted the role WRC will play in facilitating industrial relations. “The success of the Bangladesh RMG industry is built on a partnership between employers and workers. Any initiative that helps build industrial relations in a positive manner and the industry to grow further should be welcomed.”

Representing the ILO, Kishore Kumar Singh said, “The launch of the WRC marks an important step in the strengthening of the trade union movement in Bangladesh. ILO will continue to work closely with the Government, employers and workers organisations to help facilitate and promote better social dialogue in the RMG sector and beyond.” Delwar Hossain Khan, General Secretary of Bangladesh Labour Federation and ZM Kamrul Anam, Vice Chairman of the Workers Resource Centre were also present at the event.

The WRC office has been established in Tongi, an RMGhub area close to Dhaka. The premises are currently being renovated and once complete will host worker and trade union training, meetings and conferences. The launch ceremony for the WRC took place at the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP).