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Canada wants labour law reforms

Canada wants Bangladesh to reform labour laws in line with recommendations from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to secure the Canadian General Preferential Tariff (GPT) Plus scheme and enjoy the zero-duty benefit after graduation from least developed country (LDC) status in 2026.

Bangladesh will enjoy zero-duty benefit on export of goods to Canada up to 2029, the Canadian government recently announced following a similar extension from the European Union (EU).

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But if Bangladesh wants to enjoy zero-duty benefit to Canadian markets under its GPT Plus scheme beyond 2029, Bangladesh will have to meet certain criteria, including labour law reforms.

Moreover, in a meeting at the Canadian High Commission in Dhaka yesterday, a delegation of the Canadian labour department suggested the government allow trade unions in factories housed inside of the Export Processing Zones (EPZs).

However, when EPZs were established in 1981, foreign investors provided funds on the condition that the government would not allow trade unions in factories housed inside EPZs to avoid labour unrest.

Currently, instead of trade unions, workers' welfare associations are functional in factories inside EPZs.

After the meeting, BGMEA President Faruque Hassan said he highlighted the government's initiatives to reform labour laws during the meeting, adding that the process was underway.

During the meeting, the Canadian delegation also wanted to know about the progress of the wage board, formed in April this year to review the salary of more than four million garment workers.

Rakesh Patry, director general of International and Intergovernmental Labour Affairs, Labour Programme of the Canadian government led the team during the meeting. The delegation also met senior officials of the labour ministry yesterday.

The current scheme is going to expire at the end of 2024 and Canada is expected to come up with a GPT Plus scheme from January 1, 2025.

Bangladesh has been enjoying duty-free and quota-free access to Canada since 2003 under the Least-Developed Country Tariff (LDCT) scheme.

In the fiscal year 2022-23, garment exports to the country reached $1.55 billion, registering a 16.55 percent year-on-year growth compared to 2021-22, data from the Export Promotion Bureau showed.