Bangladesh law minister Anisul Haq reportedly said the threshold for unions is coming down on the advice of the International Labour Organization.

While the threshold had already been reduced from 20% to 15% it only applied to factories with 3,000 or more workers. Under the new rules, it will apply to all factories, Haq reportedly told journalists following a meeting with ILO representatives at the secretariats.

If labour laws are violated once the new law is passed, factory owners may be required to pay fines five times higher than current ones. Initially, the penalty for such violations was BDT5,000 ($45.60), but it could be raised to BDT25,000.

The ministry is seeking consultations with all industry stakeholders and international agencies ahead of the bill being passed, according to The Daily Star.

Just Style reached out to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Exporters Association (BGMEA) for comment but did not receive a response.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement, Tuomo Poutiainen, country director, the International Labour Organization (ILO), Bangladesh, said: “Bangladesh has made remarkable strides in economic growth and is on the cusp of a historic transition, moving towards graduating from the status of a Least Developed Country (LDC) by 2026. This achievement is a testament to the hard work and resilience of its people, including its vast workforce, which is the backbone of the nation’s economic growth. As we celebrate these milestones, we must also address the persisting and emerging challenges that confront workers daily.

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“The ILO and the Government of Bangladesh has a long history of working together and the ILO is committed to support Bangladesh in the ongoing labour law reforms. Our joint goal is to foster an environment where worker’s rights are protected, their contributions valued, and business are sustainable and competitive. These reforms are crucial in ensuring that the legal framework governing the world of work is conducive to fair, equitable, and decent working conditions for all.

“As we look towards the future, let us renew our commitment to social justice, to ensuring that economic growth translates into improved living standards and better working conditions for all. Let us forge stronger partnerships and deepen our dialogue, for it is only through collective action and mutual understanding that we can overcome the challenges that lie ahead.”

Last month labour union organisation Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) called out global fashion brands for allegedly failing to protect Bangladesh garment workers who are said to be facing criminal charges for engaging in 2023’s higher minimum wage protests.