The six labour federations under the banner of the International Trade Union Confederation – Bangladesh Council (ITUC-BC) signed a declaration that seeks to unite the divided trade union movement in Bangladesh by forming a unified confederation by 2025. The signing of the declaration happened at the culmination of the National Trade Union Unity Conference on 1-2 November 2022 in Dhaka with the theme, “Building a Confederation with the Aim of Establishing Rights, Power, and Dignity”.
ITUC-BC is composed of Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress (BFTUC), Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Sramik Dal (BJSD), Bangladesh Labour Federation (BLF), Bangladesh Mukto Sramik Federation (BMSF), Bangladesh Sanjukta Sramik Federation (BSSF), and Jatio Sramik League (JSL).
ITUC-BC recognises that the trade union movement in Bangladesh is heavily fragmented, thereby impeding the trade union’s role in alleviating the suffering of the workers on the ground and weakening the trust and confidence of workers in trade unions. In this regard, the National Trade Union Unity Conference seeks to address this challenge and signals that the six labour federations are committed to forge unity by building an effective and sustainable confederation.
Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-Asia Pacific and chief guest of the conference, affirms the value of the unification of trade unions in Bangladesh. He said:
“To advance our common cause – social justice for all – trade unions must be united to be stronger in making workers’ voices heard, to be stronger in creating an equal footing with governments and business, and to be stronger in making workers feel better protected.”
Md. Mojibur Rahman Bhuiyan, BMSF General Secretary, underscores:
“The fragmented trade union movement is deteriorating daily. Actions by a united trade union is necessary to meet the new challenges.”
Shakil Akter Chowdhury, BLF General Secretary, reiterates the urgency of building a united trade union movement. He said:
“Trade union unity is a demand of our time. Worker's rights can be only be protected if we are fighting for them unitedly.”
In line with this, Repon Chowdhury, ITUC-BC and BFTUC Secretary General, issued a challenge:
“Let us start a new chapter for the trade union in Bangladesh. We have no choice but to be united to win our battle for rights, power, and dignity.”
Further strengthening the message of unity, Jahangir Alam Chowdhury, BSSF General Secretary, asserted:
“To raise our voices, we need to work unitedly through a platform rather than working in individually. Since our objective is to defend workers' interests, we must work collectively by putting aside our political differences.”
The conference concluded with a historical decision by six labour federations to demonstrate their commitment to build unity within their ranks by signing a declaration of unity towards the establishment of a united, free, independent, democratic and legally registered national trade union confederation by 31 December 2025.
Anwar Hussain, BJSD President, remarked:
“We need to leave the legacy of the confederation for the future generations. Under the influence of our signature for a united confederation, the condition of workers in this country will change and industrialisation will develop.”
With the signing of the declaration, Azam Khasru, JSL General Secretary, said:
“The journey of the ITUC-BC unity is off to an auspicious start. It is a commitment to defend labour rights through the formation of an effective, sustainable confederation with others.”
Along with the leaders of the six federations, Shoya Yoshida also signed the document. “I am extremely happy to be a witness of this historical moment. We want you to work together to change the fate of Bangladeshi workers. We have been waiting for this day for a long time,” the ITUC-Asia Pacific General Secretary said.
The ITUC-Asia Pacific and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) will provide technical support for the formation of the confederation.
The National Unity Conference was participated by over 200 participants, including the representatives of the six labour federations, trade union solidarity and support organisations, ILO, researchers, and academics.
Ms. Shamsun Nahar MP, Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Ministry of Labour and Employment also attended the event as a special guest.