ITUC // Trade Union Development Projects Directory

For trade unions, development cooperation is a part of our commitment to fight poverty, promote sustainable social development and improve working and living conditions for all.


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USAID’s Workers’ Empowerment and Participation (WEP 3) Bangladesh

duration: 4 years (From 1 August 2019 to 31 July 2023)
budget: not communicated

IR 1: Workers are better represented, both inside and outside the workplace, within sustainable, democratically organized, well-managed and independent worker organizations.

IR 2: Enabling atmosphere for constructive industrial relations and protection of labor standards enhanced

I. Executive Summary
The Solidarity Center (SC) proposes a four-year program to improve conditions for workers in two critically important employment sectors in Bangladesh: readymade garments (RMG) and shrimp and fish processing (SFP). The project objective is to strengthen the capacity of independent trade unions, trade union federations, and worker community associations in the RMG and SFP sectors to collectively advocate for their rights and interests and to enhance productive interaction with management to constructively participate in improving industrial relations. The proposed project builds upon SC’s ongoing work under the Workers’ Empowerment Program (WEP) Component 1 and Component 2 (C1 and C2) awards funded by USAID/Bangladesh. Through these programs, workers made demonstrable gains from the factory floor to the streets of the communities in which they live. WEP-trained organizers established 84 new trade unions representing 92,950 workers who now have the opportunity to bargain collectively for improved working conditions in the RMG sector. In the SFP sector, workers made inroads toward improving constructive labor relations through utilization of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism. At the community level, more than 20,000 workers and their families received training at Worker Community Centers (WCCs), empowering them to advocate for critical health and education services and to participate meaningfully in the civic and economic life of their communities. However, these gains are fragile. Despite recent revisions to the Bangladesh Labor Act (BLA), the labor law still does not fully protect fundamental worker rights in accordance with international standards. The Department of Labor (DL) continues to arbitrarily reject legitimate trade union registration applications. Throughout the country there is evidence of closing democratic space, including but not limited to, the disruption of nonviolent protests, increased surveillance and intimidation of trade union leaders, and an overall reduced tolerance for freedom of expression. This creates an environment where trade union activism at times has been misinterpreted by the Government of Bangladesh as a threat to law and order, rather than the exercise of a citizen’s right to freedom of association.


Monika Hartsel