The 2017 Global Power Trade Union Congress in Iceland has passed a resolution in support of BWI fraternal organisation Palli Bidyut Sramik Koromchari League (PBSKL). The global meeting of electricity sector unions expressed PBSKL’s push for union recognition, noting that “all workers should have the right to be represented by a union.”
“Electricity workers in Bangladesh play an absolutely crucial role in alleviating rural poverty, however they are being denied the right to organise a union to improve their conditions on the job”, said BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson. “We pledge our support to PBSKL through their upcoming court case, and want to make sure that the Government of Bangladesh lives up to the rights embodied in its Constitution.”
While the Constitution guarantees workers the right to organise unions, the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB)’s statutes effectively deny 37,000 electricity workers that right. They have fought a prolonged legal battle, and, despite their consistent victories the BREB remains defiant on the issue and has appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
Yesterday the BWI wrote to ILO Country Director in Bangladesh, alerting them to the upcoming legal proceedings and the behaviour of management towards workers that have attempt to exercise their rights to freedom of association. After meeting with the BWI in August 2017, four PBSKL were sanctioned by the BREB, and shifted to a different part of the country away from their families and communities. Other workers have been suspended for months at a time for their union involvement.
“Joining a union to better your conditions is a fundamental right”, said Allen Hicks, President of the Australian Electrical Trade Union (ETU), who have supported PBSKL. “The ETU is committed to making sure workers are able to exercise that right without fear of retribution, and we are also planning on working with PBSKL to strengthen their health and safety practices.”