Currently a vast multitude of social systems relevant to industrial relations exist worldwide. These systems have been broadly classified into eleven broad types. Each of these classifications have been reversed and a relevancy analysis done from the perspective of the labor, social, political and historical perspective of Bangladesh.
The anthropological study of subsistence, often termed cultural ecology, covers the basic tools, techniques, and organizational arrangements (technology) that people have developed to obtain food and other material resources from their natural surroundings (environment).
It focuses upon providing a detailed account of the system of material production and looks at how subsistence relates to other aspects of social organization and culture: settlement forms, family life, political organization, and ideology and religion.
1. Cultural Evolution – emphasis on general subsistence types depending on technologies of food production.
2. Cultural Ecology – emphasis on adaptation to local environments through use of technology and patterns of social organization.
3. Indigenous Knowledge Systems – emphasis on local systems of classifying, utilizing, and managing environmental resources.
The subsistence system of social relations in production is widely spread, appearing in 106 countries or territories out of 153, the main areas of its incidence are in Africa, low economic growth Asian countries and to a lesser extent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Most densely populated peasant societies form part of large markets and cannot be considered as subsistence systems.
A subsistence system is the characteristic of peasant economies. Here, the family units produce mainly for their own consumption. This also includes some limited specialization in artisan products exchanged on a local basis. In the subsistence system, the primitive technology is generally used for production. In the subsistence system, family units are largely independent of hierarchical economic authority. It is true that although there is no hierarchical economic authority, there might often be social and political authority. The workers in subsistence system are substantially outside and independent of the monetized economy. As a rough rule if more than 25 percent of their working time is devoted to earning money either by performing paid labor or by sale of products produced in the family unit in order to acquire goods produced outside the subsistence economy. They are no longer to be considered as being in a subsistence system.
Subsistence system has some major disadvantages. If social relations are seen as determining work rules and return to producers, then the subsistence system is almost out of definition. The level of return depends on three basic factors which are:
1. Quality and size of land
2. Technology of production and
3. Climatic conditions.
The subsistence system is different from others in that it is politically inert. The main reason behind this is the isolation and independence of labor within the system. Changes occurring in the subsistence system are therefore a function of changes occurring in elsewhere. Thus land reform or commercialization of agriculture invariably results in a network of social relations transforming former subsistence farmers into peasants tied to a market. The number of workers in the system is, therefore, decreasing. Social conflict is virtually impossible within the system, but the individual bitterness, frustration and disappointment which arises from subsistence experience may be an important factor in conflict situations arising in other systems.
In overall view, this is a naturally declining system in both relative and absolute terms. Population increase cannot be absorbed by subsistence farming except by extending to new land which is not likely to be available. Almost any change, economic or technological, will propel those involved into the peasant – lord and primitive labor market relationships. Political changes could incorporate subsistence farmers into mobilizing systems.
In Bangladesh, the subsistence system is not much seen in practice. It primarily is because in subsistence system, family units produce for their own consumption. But in Bangladesh, production is done for market rather than for personal consumption. Though peasant economy is the base of subsistence system, it also has limited specialization. In subsistence system, products are exchanged on a local basis. In Bangladesh, products are not exchanged in a local basis. It is exchanged both in local as well as international basis. Of the two, the international basis should be considered prime because of its significant contribution to the country’s economy. The technology used for production in subsistence system is primitive. Technology for production in Bangladesh is not latest, but at the same time, it is not entirely primitive. Day by day, more and more latest technological equipments are getting introduced for production. In the subsistence system, families are largely independent of hierarchical economic authority. But in Bangladesh, now-a-days, it is not quite the case. Now-a-days, there is a thin line of difference in families on the base of economical authority. This can more be referred to a change in the social infrastructure.
Finally, the subsistence system is seen fading in a number of places day by day. Sometime in near future, it will be completely gone from Bangladesh as well.
The peasant–lord system is one of the most primitive forms of labor relations in its existence. Despite of new discoveries and technological innovations, peasant-lord system still prevails in many Asian and Latin American countries. But since its inception it has gone through many modifications, its main changing forces being population growth and variation in its composition, technological innovations especially in agriculture, urbanization and industrial development, increasing investment pattern and various social developments. Few of the characteristics of the system are enumerated as follows:
1. Prevails in densely populated rural areas
This is mainly because the feudal system is practiced by the people in the rural areas mainly in the form of tenant farming. The zamindar or the lord is the influential person in the village who abuses his power to deceive the poor farmers off their legal right to their part of the harvest. These kinds of practices are not present in the urban areas where the state law is strictly followed and also mainly because the peasant lord system works where traditional occupations like farming are followed.
2. Production is by primitive technology
As the peasant lord system mainly follows a traditional method of production therefore the technology used is also primitive. The workers are often not educated enough to carry out their tasks with the help of the modern technology.
3. Workers and their family units are subject to an economic hierarchy and through it are bound to their traditional occupations
4. The lord is all-powerful in relation to the worker and his family, but his power may be tampered by custom and by an ethic of paternal obligation
As mentioned the peasant lord system works mainly in the form tenant based farming. Therefore the influence of the lord is very significant in the life of the workers. But sometimes their authority may be somewhat dampened due to different cultural and religious customs. In Bangladesh, however, the influence of the zamindar or the lord is highly felt and affects each and every aspect of the workers’ activities.
5. State does not enter the relationship between Lord and peasant except to extract some of the product
The peasant lord system practiced in the rural areas is completely out of reach of the state laws and regulations. The government does impose any direct regulation on the lords or the workers thus further facilitating exploitation of the poor workers.
TREND OF URBANIZATION IN BANGLADESH
Bangladesh is still an agrarian society though nearly one quarter of the population lives in the urban areas. Table 1, which gives the trend of urban growth in Bangladesh for last one century, shows a very slow and retarded urban growth for Bangladesh. The large number of urban population since 1981 is due to the definitional change of urban area in those censuses. The high urban growth rate from 1974 through 2001 was due to the extended definition of urban area in 1981. Though the urban population has increased from 2.4 per cent in 1901 to 23.1 per cent in 2001, the exponential growth rate indicates much slower growth for the said period, from 1.4 during1901-11, it increased to 3.2 during 1991-2001. The overall trend is curvilinear, unstable and periodically fluctuating. It reflects both global and internal dynamism as well as statistical manipulation by the politicized administration of a peripheral state.
Table 1: Urbanization in Bangladesh, 1901-2001
Source: Government of Bangladesh, Population Census-2001: National Report (Provisional) (Dhaka: Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003)
EVOLUTION OF THE WORKING CLASS
Bangladesh was a British colony for almost 200 years. In that period the British authority used this country as a source for the raw materials of different industry. The British authority showed disinclination to set up industrial establishment in this country. Rather they preferred the labor force of this country to produce the raw materials which the British authority shipped to the abroad. So basically in that period almost all the labor force was engaged in the agricultural activities for producing raw materials. The number of the organized working class people is also almost absent.
Under the ‘Zamindar Protha’ there was a particular Zamindar or Land-lord for a particular area, who used to take tax from the farmers of that area. Many times farmers were bound to grow the crops that the respective Zamindar wanted. Farmers in those period followed very old way of cultivation. This system got resembles with the Peasant –lord system mentioned in the Interim report on ‘Future Industrial Relations’ prepared by Robert W. Cox, Jeffrey Harrod & others. Farmers in those period followed very old way of cultivation.
The main activities of our country people were mostly around agriculture. Agrarian structure played the most important role from an earlier period in the making of social stratification what gradually assumed the present shape. The largest bulk of the population lived in the countryside with a small urban counterpart. Those living in the countryside primarily derived subsistence from agriculture, and therefore, one cannot ignore the social relationship grown out of agrarian structure. Zamindars or the revenue collectors were the most powerful class in the agrarian structure since the pre-colonial time in Bengal and the new colonial land policy of 1793 did not disturb the basic equilibrium. There was change of hands in land ownership but the class did not disappear.
Agrarian society during the colonial time also witnessed the emergence of a rich peasant class who happened to occupy an important position in social stratification. At least one specific development created the pre-condition for the emergence of rich/proto-capitalist peasants: the market integration of Bengal agriculture with the global economy particularly with the onset of indigo and jute cultivation. The rich peasant class enjoyed economic wealth and power in rural society. On the other hand, agrarian society during colonial time also went through the process of proletarianization/pauperization with the consequent emergence of landless class. While different land tenure measures influenced the class composition of the agrarian structure and in turn social stratification, the growing capitalization facilitated the emergence of agricultural wage workers. The social stratification pattern that emerged during the colonial time comprised the superior landed class, landed intermediaries with several layers, rich peasants/proto-capitalists, poor peasants/sharecroppers, and agricultural working class coming from the landless and marginal peasants.
Important changes took place at the level of urban social stratification with the introduction of British rule in the urban areas. A pristine ‘Bhadralok’ or gentlemen class consisted of educated professionals (lawyers, teachers, doctors, engineers, service holders and others) emerged in urban Bengal reaping the benefits from the new educational and occupational opportunities. On the other hand, the size of the newly emerged business class was small and characteristically not comparable with the bourgeois counterpart of the West. Earlier, the social status enjoyed by the traders or ‘Banians’ was lesser than the higher caste like the Brahmans and it changed during the colonial time. Business class also became educated and the vice versa.
One of the significant developments immediately after the partition of the subcontinent was the abolition of zamindari land system in Bangladesh. Since historically most Zamindars came from the Hindu community, their migration to India after partition created a sort of vacuum in social structure. The Muslim traditional wealthy class linked to agriculture came to occupy that vacuum, although it was a fact that their size was minuscule.
AGRARIAN CLASSES AND GROUPS
The following agrarian classes and groups are found to constitute rural society with hierarchical status and prestige:
1. Capitalist farmers- wealthy, own land and technology, hire outside labor and carry out cultivation for the market
2. Rich peasants- they are also wealthy and hire outside labor but they are still engaged in cultivation
3. Middle peasants- primarily subsistence cultivators with occasional market participation and primarily depending on household labor
4. Marginal peasants – they combine cultivation and labor sale to ensure subsistence
5. The landless- the wage workers primarily engaged in agriculture.
In rural stratification there are other traditional groups such as kamars (blacksmiths), swarnakars (goldsmiths), sweepers, tantis (weavers), kalus (oil pressers), and others who enjoy minimum status. The roles of some of these groups are now taken over by the professional producers. For example, edible oil comes from the mill.
There are different forces what result in the changes of the economic condition of rural households. When examined over a long span of time, economic status of a rural household is found to be subject to mobility. Many surplus producing rural households gradually turned into subsistence and later deficit households. On the other hand, many deficit households gradually became surplus ones. Market forces, demographic forces, inheritance laws, household splitting are some of the important factors causing such mobility.
Gradually with time, supply for labor did exceed the demand for labor in many areas. As a result many workless agro-workers began to shift from the rural areas to the town areas. In that period few industrial establishment were set. Many of those agro-workers took job on those industrial establishments. Thus those agro-workers became inexperienced and unskilled labor force in that time. They basically did not have any collective bargaining power neither they were that much organized. They also followed traditional technologies to carry out their production process.
PEASANT REVOLUTIONS IN BANGLADESH
Bengal is famous for peasant revolution dating back to Mughal time. In Jessore, a local Hindu Raja by the name Pratapaditya gave leadership to a rebellion against the mighty Mughal, which nearly cost him his life during 1610-1612. The heroic tales of Raja Pratapaditya engendered many legends and folklore in Bengal. Novelist Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in late nineteenth century wrote novels based on peasant rebellion including one by the ascetic sanyasis. The short story Anandamoth describes in details how sanyasis fought the invading force. Bankim’s another novella ‘Sitaram’ also gave graphic description of another peasant uprising in Bengal.
In the middle of twentieth century right before Bengal was partitioned based on M.A. Jinnah’s dubious two-nation theory, an uprising by the name Tebhaga Andolon (sharecroppers’ movement) had exemplified the supreme sacrifice and tenacity of rural folks. The Nachole uprising near Kansat, Chapai Nawabganj in 1950 by Santal tribe was patterned after Tebhaga Andolon. In the next fifty-six year we have not seen any such organized peasant movement.
In the beginning of 2006, the peasants from villages near Kansat, Chapai Nawabganj organized a movement to demand their fair share of electricity which is required to do their farm chores. In one sense their livelihood is linked with the availability of electricity. However, due to political involvements the issue took a turn towards abloddy conflict between the peasants and the state police. 20 people were killed in the clash and caused the villagers to flee their home for safety. The uprising had surprised many people in Bangladesh. The Amnesty International also made an appeal along with Mukto-Mona forum in the Internet for government’s restraint and to assist the peasants to gain their fair rights.
PRIMITIVE LABOR MARKET SYSTEM
This system falls under the systems associated with marginality and transition. However, this direct transition does not take place. Instead, a large marginal sector of workforce grows with the exodus from the primitive rural systems. The marginal workers are not fully integrated in the industry and are often recent migrants from rural villages who retain possibilities of earning from agriculture. They may be engaged in petty trading and menial personal services or they may be totally without income derived from any legitimate activity.
Primitive labor market system comes into existence when some workers have lost status or broken the ties of the peasant-lord relationship or abandoned the subsistence economy so as to become landless laborers. Although, currently, the conditions of employment and wages are determined by the availability of labor, this system is untouched by the minimum wage legislation, social security, and other protective activities of the State. Their conditions are lower and largely unaffected by those prevailing for established workers in the enterprise labor market or other highly organized systems. Social security is provided mainly through family connections (in towns or villages from which these workers come) and by the availability of occasional tasks of a menial and temporary nature.
But it is found that movement out of the primitive labor market is blocked or insignificant. The number of workers in this system of social relations in production is determined by the flow from rural areas and the natural increase in the marginal production. Industrialization can absorb only a few into enterprise labor market or other modern systems.
THE PRIMITIVE LABOR MARKET SYSTEM HAS THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS:
1. A surplus of unskilled labor: most of the labor available does not possess the required skill or competence.
2. Technology of production remains primitive: use of technology, equipment or skill lacks modern touch.
3. Lack of skills required in modern organization: Competent labor unavailable to match job in the modern organizations.
4. Wage contract appears: wages are paid on a contractual basis.
5. No collective power as labor organizations do not exist
6. State does not usually enter the work relationship.
7. Workers are relatively mobile: workers can be easily moved from one geographical region to another.
8. Have some choice of employment
9. Have some individual bargaining power
PRIMITIVE LABOR SYSTEM IN BANGLADESH
In 1951, few years after independence of Pakistan, the first labor market was reviewed with the number of 12.886 million of workers employed in different sectors. In 1956 one of the earliest studies on the extent of unemployment was carried out in four sub-divisions of four different regions of Bangladesh: Narayanganj, Rangpur, Rajbari and Feni. Using the time approach this study clearly indicated the differences in rural unemployment patterns among the four regions. The percentages of unemployed adult male were found to be Narayanganj 41.3, Rangpur 11.5, Rajbari 26.1, and Feni 45.2. The farm families showed a much smaller proportion of unemployed males in the whole year. The percentages of unemployed among the farm families were recorded as 0.27 at Narayanganj, 0.09 at Rangpur, 0.6 at Rajbari, and 45.2 at Feni sub division.
During the period of 1901-1961 there has been increase in the size of the labor force in Bangladesh from 9.6 to 17.44 million while total population rose from 28.97 to 50.84 million. In Bangladesh the “average annual exponential growth rate” of the labor force was 1.12 percent lower than the growth rate of 1.38 percent during the same period.
The higher population growth rate, therefore, was responsible for elevating the dependency of 201 persons per 100 labor force to 192 in 1961. An examination of the trend participation rates shows that there has been a continuous decline during the period, resulting in the number of dependents per labor force rising from 201 in 1901 to 297 in 1931.with the improved labor force conditions during the 1950s, it declined to 192 in 1961. In 1965, the economy of Bangladesh was dependent on agriculture. Around 50% of the economy was based on agriculture. Primitive cultivation procedure, lack of irrigation facilities and poor output market for the hard earned produced goods caused sufferings to the labor force.
More specifically, it should be noted that the increase in the labor force participation had not been consistent with that of population growth rate throughout the successive decennial periods.
CURRENT SITUATION OF THE PRIMITIVE LABOR MARKET SYSTEM IN BANGLADESH
The Primitive labor market systems still, to some extent, prevails in Bangladesh. This market comprises of none other than our household help (servants) which we often bring from villages via social or family connections. These people are often brought from the rural region and are made part of the urban population and are engaged in occasional or frequent tasks of a menial nature. There is also a surplus of these unskilled labors, which we bring to our home, for our help and simultaneously teach them additional tasks. However, these helping hands use their primitive knowledge to help in our daily chores. They are completely unaware of the use of modern equipments (e.g. microwave oven, blender, etc.). They are often hired on a wage contract basis but they also have the opportunity of some individual bargaining power. Moreover, this group of people is quite mobile as well. The State plays no role in the work relationship between the helping hands, acquired from the villages, and us. But the state does have the right to take legal actions on behalf of them if they are poorly treated or physically tortured.
Apart from the helping hands at our household, a primitive labor system also exists in the labor market of cart pullers (thela gariwala, in Bengali or van pullers). These people are brought from the villages and are made part of the urban population and are engaged in frequent tasks that require tremendous hard work. There is also a surplus of these unskilled labors, which are often seen sitting idle in front of furniture shops, big organizations and different busy areas. However, these people use their primitive knowledge to help in our daily lives. They are hired to transfer things from one shop to another; help in moving furniture, etc while shifting homes and many more such tasks. They are completely unaware of the use of modern equipments. They are often hired on a wage contract basis but they also have the opportunity of some individual bargaining power. Moreover, this group of people is quite mobile as well. The State plays no role in the work relationship between the cart pullers, acquired from the villages, and us.
ENTERPRISE LABOR MARKET
ACCORDING TO COX, ENTERPRISE LABOR MARKET SYSTEM HAS THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS:
1. Production is by modern technology
2. The enterprise is the only meaningful domain in decision making
3. Employment and conditions are regulated through the operation of an open labour market
4. The state and trade unions intervenes only in a very limited or ineffective way in labour relations.
5. The power of the individual employer is not necessarily absolute as labour market conditions will considerably influence his behavior.
REVIEW IN THE CONTEXT OF BANGLADESH
In the Enterprise Labour Market if there are very few skilled labour coupled with no unskilled labour, there cannot be unrest of workers. As legal benefit is ensured, no question of dispute as to allocation of legal benefits arises. The trade union is not a factor. The system between worker and owner sharing policy formulation, benefits talk with representatives are mandatory. Trade union is a voluntary wish of workers. However, they must be registered by government. Trade unions can only be established at the discretion of the workers.
In Bangladesh at present trade union is not functioning in the desirable way. For example in garments industry in real sense there is no trade union. So image building is not there. In Bangladesh the trade unions are not getting support from the government. Although the workers are unjustly fired the trade unions are not there to support them. The question is whether trade union is there in enterprise labour market. In case of garments industry there is a shortage of skilled labour. Autocratic behavior on the part of the employers ensures an oppressive attitude towards the workers and unions, thereby highlighting the inefficiency of the unions. Thus, workers are not happy. Owner is not giving wage, overtime and no guarantees of service because of the availability of workers.
Besides garments industry, in the private spinning mills this situation exists. In government industry owners cannot do unjust behavior.
In Bangladesh, employers’ paternalistic approach is positive only theoretically. There is a saying that guardian of the family knows the best. Like the owner have the responsibility to maintain the industry in a peaceful manner. So, in the enterprise labor market, if the employers’ approach is positive, the paternalistic approach is positive. Here again comes the issue of humanitarian approach. The demand of the workers is unlimited. This has to be fulfilled with limited resources. But if the owner wants to ensure their interest most, they maximize their interest by maximizing profit at the cost of the labor. The scenario of Bangladesh is similar to that.
THE ENTERPRISE – CORPORATIST SYSTEM
ACCORDING TO COX, THE ENTERPRISE CORPORATIST SYSTEM HAS THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS
1. Worker is reduced in exchange for employment security and welfare guaranteed by the employer
2. Modern technology system
3. Security and welfare provided by the corporation may act as a deterrent to the formation of unions
4. Workers’ interests and loyalties are enterprise-based
5. Trade unions behave as though they share with the employer an interest in the well-being of the enterprise
6. Industrial relations are dealt with in large measure autonomously within the corporation without significant control by the political system.
REVIEW IN THE CONTEXT OF BANGLADESH
In Bangladesh Enterprise Corporatist System refers to having a pet union like BATB and controlling the labors by that union. Union works more for the employer than for the employees. So the actual benefit of Enterprise Corporatist System is not observed by the Employees.
The public sector management suffer from lack of authority and accountability. They have to wait for government guidelines and act on the basis of these. Private sector owner-managers continue to be reluctant to consider workers as equal partners. Industrial relations policies, practices and climate are usually considered far better in multinational companies, which fall under enterprise corporatist system.
Also under enterprise corporatist system there are observations regarding Multi-national Companies (MNC) in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh there are many multinational companies. They are doing business by contractual agreements. For example in BAT, only few are permanent. There is a trade union but they do not work for the workers. They want to ensure their membership in the permanent membership of the organization. The trade unions real support is to give facilities. But in reality they are supporting the owners to give less profit to contractual employees. In this context, the unions are failing to bring prosperity to the workers and rather working against them. They can serve as the confidential assistants and fire assistants. They are not eligible to permanent benefits. In other ways constituents are set by the interest of the unions.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO CHANGE THE OVERHEAD SCENARIO IS AS FOLLOWS:
1. Non discrimination with regard to
1.1. Wage: Often is the case, that workers are not getting the expected wages, which in turn is creating all the hassles inside the organizations and in effect the slump in the working of the enterprise corporatist system. This is a serious contentious issue and needs to be resolved by setting wages in such a fashion so that wages are given fairly among all employees. Big local companies like Square are practicing this trend very well.
1.2. Religion: Creed discrepancies and individual moral values have to be kept aside in order for an effective system of enterprise corporatist system to function. Friction might arise if discrimination practices are used. Many corporations follow the policy of not being biased towards any such religion. Again, multinationals can be used as a good example. Unilever is a good choice.
1.3. Job status (permanent or non permanent): This is another area which needs to be looked into to make the system effective. Job status must be made mutually exclusive of any discrimination. Bonus, benefits and other amenities must be consistently provided.
2. Ensuring fair practice of labour law: Application of fair labour law practices will ensure a healthy environment to work in. The current system lacks these mechanisms. So care must be taken to deal with the law strictly. Only then can the system be more effective.
3. Non permanent workers must have representatives in the union: Yet another contentious issue is the involvement of non permanent workers in the union. Currently, the non-permanent workers are deprived from having any CBA. That way, they can also have a motivation and certain level of commitment to work for the organizations if they see that their needs are felt by the top-level management. Often is the case, that the corporatist system fails to deliver because of the union’s apathy towards the temporary workers. But in reality, these workers might represent a high proportion of some organizations and in that case, it becomes very essential to get these people under the unions vicinity.
Bipartite system is well established and regarded as basically functional by the actors in it and the society at large. Another important stabilizing factor is the law, which is at present as much a factor for stability as it was an instrument of change in one historical period. The basic features of the law will remain constant but govt. intervention through non-legislative means will continue to increase, just as the government’s role in other type of economic activity seems destined to become more important. The nature and form of government intervention, possible value changes among section of the labor force and membership change in union represent the three major sources of the minor changes expected in the system.
ACCORDING TO COX, THE BIPARTITE SYSTEM HAS THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS:
1. Labor specialized, skilled and mobile and are associated with modern-technology production
2. Trade unions are strongly organized on a basis broader than the enterprise
3. Employers tend to be effectively organized
4. Relationship is contractual and workers indentify with the skills and profession, not the enterprise
5. State’s role is limited to administering labor protective legislation and applying minimum standards
6. More appropriate for groups of enterprises rather than for individual enterprises
7. The outcomes of bargaining do not systemically take account of interests beyond those of the parties directly concerned
REVIEW IN THE CONTEXT OF BANGLADESH
The companies of Bangladesh that can be classified under bipartite system are :
1. Bangladesh petroleum corporation, for example, eastern refinery
2. Bangladesh Biman
3. Bangladesh Railway
4. Bangladesh Oxygen Corporation
6. Multinationals like Unilever
TRADE UNION ACTIVITIES UNDER BIPARTITE SYSTEM
Trade union activities under Bipartite System in Bangladesh are low. There are quite a few reasons behind it.
1. Political influence: Right now, the caretaker government has called a ban on trade union movement and thus the scope of trade union activities is very limited inside the organizations.
2. Illiteracy of industry: Industry’s lack of knowledge on the trade union’s power and impact has led to a lowering influence of trade unions in various sectors. The trend is akin among almost all the major industries with some rare exceptions.
3. Workers are not literate so their choice of leader is not literate: It is only expected that illiterate workers cannot choose an ideal leader to run their labour union. This case is valid for multiple sectors such as in jute, railway etc.
The problem in Bangladesh can be solved through bipartite system because of its joint mechanism, openness and flexibility. Only then by integrating with the humanitarian approach industrial relation can solve the crucial issues.
In Bangladesh, better opportunities under bipartite system can be created:
1. By raising the international standards – National minimum unskilled labor salary is 1500 taka. Government gives bonus in two eids. This is mandatory. But for multinationals this is not mandatory. They can give more bonuses. This is why they decrease their salary. Because 1 bonus = basic salary. For this they increase other benefits like children’s education. In case of rent 55% is off in government sector but 100% off in private organizations. In this sector union can bargain with charter of demand.
2. By maintaining international standard and bargaining with workers owners can deal with positive paternalistic approach. So workers can realize the limitations of the owners.
Tripartite system exists in the modern sectors of some developing countries, where governments seek sometimes to compensate for weakness in the trade unions’ bargaining power, sometimes to prevent industrial conflict from obstructing economic development, and sometimes to advance social equity by limiting the part of the national product going to the more organized groups. It comes to being when the government plays a more active role as a third party, bargaining with non-governmental employers and trade unions. The government is concerned with the regulation of conflict and with the outcomes of collective bargaining, both because it is a large employer and, more particularly, because these outcomes affect the attainment of the economic and social goals of public policy.
ACCORDING TO COX, TRIPARTITE SYSTEM HAS THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS:
1. Government plays a more active role as a third party, bargaining with nongovernmental employers and trade unions
2. Government is concerned with the regulation of conflict and with the outcomes of collective bargaining
3. The governmental initiative is to pursue public policy goals and its judicial action is as arbitrator
4. Political system and industrial system are interrelated
5. Outcomes affect the attainment of the economic and social goals of public policy
6. An attempt to reach integrated decisions which merge all relevant group interests in a consideration of the general interest
TRIPARTITE MECHANISMS AND PRACTICES IN BANGLADESH
Currently, there are four regular tripartite institutions at the national level: the Tripartite Consultative Council (TCC); the MWB the Tripartite Productivity Committee (TPC); and the National Council for Skill Development and Training (NCSDT). On top of these regular institutions, two ad hoc tripartite institutions are convened at irregular intervals: the National Pay Commission (NPC). And the National Wage Commission (NWC). Of these institutions, TPC and NCSDT are of recent origin, and an assessment would be premature. Available evidence suggests that these tripartite institutions are not working effectively in improving industrial relations at the national, sectoral, or plant levels. A variety of actors explain this. First, there is the multiplicity of tripartite institutions, which are assigned different functions, but few of which address the most fundamental issues of globalization, including industrial relations . An upgraded and strengthened TCC might perform most, though not all, of the tripartite functions. The NWC is virtually a sterile body and works only half-heartedly. There is no reason why the salaries of employees other than workers should be fixed by the NPC and not by the NWC. Moreover, the competence of the NPCs, NWCs, and the MWB is limited only to wage extermination, which constitutes only one part of the entire gamut of labor processes. The competence of the TCC is also limited only to reviewing domestic labor standards and ratifying ILO Conventions. Most importantly, all the tripartite bodies, including the MWB, suffer from inadequate staff and other support facilities. Secondly, while efforts are being made to create a climate for free market forces, the Government plays the predominant role in all the tripartite bodies.
Government intervention seriously limits closer labor-management co-operation. Moreover, the authority for approval and implementation of tripartite body recommendations lies with the Government, which often creates conflicts and disrupts industrial relations at the national level with country-wide strikes and “hartal” (general strikes), In This context, mention may be made of important recent developments relating to policy on wages. While the workers are arguing for a basic needs (nutritional requirements) approach to determining minimum/floor wages, and making general wage adjustments n accordance with skill and experience, employers insist on linking wages to productivity. The position of the Government is dependent more on the availability of funds and keeping the minimum wage close to the 1995 NPC award of Tk. 1500/month .
Despite a number of limitations of the existing tripartite bodies, there is huge potential hr their becoming involved in successful social dialogue in bringing about harmonious industrial relations. In many countries, social dialogue now involves not only the three traditional parties, but also new actors in civil society and the informal sector. In Bangladesh, however, no associations outside the traditional industrial actors play any significant role in the tripartite/bipartite social dialogue. NGOs among other civil society groups, do work behind voluntary initiatives that address corporate citizenship and workers’ welfare such as codes of conduct and social labeling. There are several ways in which the traditional three parties can work more effectively in partnership with the NGOs to pursue shared goals and objectives. Forging links with civil society is essentially a matter of recognizing the power of civil society as a base for alliance in meeting shared goals, and thereby strengthening the traditional social partners (Muqtada 2002).
ROLE OF STATE IN TRIPARTITE SYSTEM
As the trade union movement in Bangladesh originated in British India and Pakistan, it naturally retained its old character of working more as a nationalist force against colonial domination than as a class force vis-à-vis capitalist exploitation. As a result, the trade union movement of the region that has gained momentum in the hands of political leaders stood divided along the political and/or theological lines in independent Bangladesh.
State had emerged as the third important force determining industrial relations system in Bangladesh since the very beginning of its industrialization. Although, recently the role of state has declined due to deregulation and privatization, still the state itself has become an employer of millions of industrial workers and it is its moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that the rights of the workers are suitably safeguarded.
After 1971, most industries and services were nationalized. The Industrial Relation Ordinance 1969 continued to govern industrial relations, but labor management relations were often more turbulent. On 24 December 1974 the government declared a state of emergency, disbanding all political parties, banning strikes and lock outs and restricting trade union activities; the conciliation machinery of the Labor Ministry and the industrial courts were maintained. However, President Ziaur Rahman (1976-1981 in power) adopted a policy in the late 1970s for a return of substantial part of the nationalized sector to private ownership.
After a decade of disturbed political conditions, power was assumed in April 1982 by Gen. Hussain Mohammad Ershad, the Army Chief of Staff. General Ershad, in June 1982, announced a major program of decentralization. In December 1990 Ershad government was thrown out by a mass movement, especially guided and dominated by the student forces. Eventually, a fairly elected democratic government took over the power through the national pole in February 1991. A parliamentary government headed by the leader and chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Begum Khaleda Zia assumed the power and continued to exercise it for the consecutive three and a half year. Then alike the past scenario, a political unrest upsurges the whole country led by the opposition leader Sheikh Hasina. Another national pole took place in 1996 which put Bangladesh Awami League in power.
During this period, the trade union movement was marked by direct interference by the government and the ruling party in its internal affairs. In many industrial belts, terrorism was set loose by the men of the labor front of the then ruling party. They tried to drive out the honest trade unionists from the leadership of the unions. Outsiders were barred from trade union leadership at the basic union level thus making the process of union high jacking very easy. It also succeeded in turning the workforce into a very defenseless and weak community.
Government is thus responsible for the maintenance of a balance between the interests of the two parties in industrial relations Dunlop (1978), and Memoria (1998) also place emphasis on the role of state in regulating employer and employee relationships. They contend that industrial relation is the complex of inter-relationship among workers, employers and Government. The government tries to regulate the relationship of employer and employee and keeps an eye on both parties to keep each in line.’)
The process, as mentioned before, started during the colonial period and still continues in present Bangladesh. The aim of such control by the various governments in the past was to create a brand of unionism within the image and likeness of those who were in state power.
TRADE UNION AND THE STATE IN BANGLADESH
Apart from the legal framework of control of the trade unions in Bangladesh, extra constitutional action on the part of the various Governments in the field of trade unions are used from time to time to control the trade unions of Bangladesh. The various Governments when using extra- constitutional or oppressive powers to curb the activities of the militant unions have tried to justify the use of extra-constitutional power by claiming they are necessary for the security and progress of the country (Ahmed, 1979). But a deeper analysis of the intentions of the governments shows that the main motive behind such measures undertaken by the Governments are totally politically directed, i.e. the various Governments simply try to control trade unions for their own political ends.
After independence, the Awami League Government in 1972 nationalized more than 90% of large-scale industries. The concept of workers’ participation was also given serious consideration. The Government appointed various committees and also invited an ILO mission to explore the possibilities of introducing a Yugoslavian—type of workers’ participation in management (known as self-management) in Bangladesh (ILO, 1973). In October 1972, the Government introduced its Labor Policy whereby workers’ participation in management was finally agreed and a Workers’ Management Council in every nationalized industry was also agreed. But this policy also severely curtailed the scope for collective bargaining by placing wages and fringe benefits outside the scope of collective bargaining. Moreover, the said labor policy took away the right to strike.
The Government’s argument at this stage was that the collective bargaining model applicable to a capitalist economy was not applicable in a socialist economy where large – scale nationalization and workers’ participation had taken place. The trade unions fiercely opposed this plan. They were especially most reluctant to give up their rights to wage bargaining and strike. The Government labor policy also faced opposition from the management side. The traditional authoritative managerial structure could not accept the concept of workers participation in management. Moreover, the internal contradiction within the Government, mainly between rightist and leftist forces also worked against the implementation of the aforesaid labor policy .
In 1974, the Awami League Government went for a one party socialist – corporatist state system where a single trade union organization, as part of the state – party machinery, was proposed. In the above system trade unions were to become a part of the Government in a socialist – corporatist framework. But before the scheme could be fully implemented an army coup overthrew the Awami League Government in 1975. So, we find that even a political party like the Awami League, whose coming to power was largely facilitated by the trade unions, was reluctant to lose control over the trade unions . It rather wanted to use trade unions as an arm of its party machinery to attain the party’s political objectives. To accomplish this aim, the Awami League Government did not even hesitate to control trade unions by extra – constitutional measures and imposing a ban on strikes. This phenomenon simply represents the inclusions corporatist tendency of a typical Third World populist government. The Military Government that took power in 1975 adopted a policy on the industrial labor front similar to that of General Ayub in Pakistan, who ruled Pakistan from 1958 to 1968. In the industrial sector, the army Government encouraged private investment from both home and abroad, and took an ‘exclusionist’ policy in respect to trade union activities.
The Government, by promulgating the Industrial Relations (Regulation) Ordinance of 1975, banned strikes and the formation of new unions. With the gradual pressure from the politicians and trade unions, the army Government in 1977 and in 1980 relaxed the rules regarding trade unions. At this stage the Government plan was to encourage the depoliticalisation process of the trade unions as well as to ‘buy off’ trade union leaders by offering them various opportunities (Islam, 1983). But after an army coup in 1982, the right to strike and lockout was again suspended by applying extra- constitutional measures in Bangladesh.
This ban continued till 1991. The elected government in 1992 gave the right to strike and lockout. From the above discussion it is clear that the various Governments of Bangladesh, starting from the Pakistani rule up to the present time, have tried to control the trade unions through the Government’s legislative, executive and judicial machinery. And whenever necessary, the various Governments resorted to extra constitutional means to control trade unions. The various measures of the Governments may be broadly divided into two categories. The various army Governments in the initial stage mostly adopted a policy of discouraging trade union organization mainly because of political affiliations and at a later stage when pressure was mounting on the army Governments to civilianize the administration, they mostly were for economic unionism and tried to depoliticalise the trade union movement. The various nationalists—populist Governments, on the other hand, in their initial stage of rule tolerated the trade unions mainly because trade unions mostly played a part in bringing them into power. But soon they wanted to use trade unions as extensions of their party. Thus, the various nationalist—populist Governments adopted an inclusions-corporatist framework regarding trade unions and thereby making trade unions part of the state decision—making process, whereas the various army Governments followed an exclusionist-corporatist policy in respect of trade unions and tried to ban them from the political arena, Although they adopted two different methods of dealing with trade unions, yet both the populist and army Governments had one thing in common, they both tried to control and contain the working class militancy and to foster a kind of leadership that would accept the Government prescribed procedure for the industrial relations system.
Government action in support of globalization has to rely on policy planning and delivery services provided by the public sector. This sector has to be restructured to meet the demands of, or overcome problems arising from, globalization (e.g., demands from MNC’s and domestic firms for less “red tape”; and the problem of enterprises having to rely on inefficient public enterprises for provision of basic services). In this regard, Ministries of Labor often have a narrow and reactive role. Given the importance of industrial relations to economic development, they should be working more actively with planning and finance Ministries to generate development options, create more coherent and coordinated strategies and, generally, improve public sector efficiency. There is also a need for governments to include trade unions in any public sector reform process and take account of their major concerns.
Finally, governments should continue to promote bipartite and tripartite institutions and processes to establish appropriate labor policy and standards. Inputs from all relevant parties should be considered. Not only will this limit potential conflict in the future, but (particularly where major business and investment interests – including those of MNC’s – are involved) it should establish a sound basis for investment and economic and employment growth.
State corporatism is a type of political system which includes a subordinate industrial relations system to which the same name applies. Such systems are to be found in some countries where competitive party politics have been suppressed or are only formal, but semi autonomous organizations of employers and workers exist under state tutelage.
ACCORDING TO COX, STATE CORPORATISM HAS THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS:
1. Leadership is conditional upon loyalty to the ruling political party or government leaders.
2. Industrial conflicts are usually limited or repressed by political leadership.
3. Covers enterprises with modern technology, but not include marginal or rural components of labor force.
4. Worker and employer organizations both seek satisfaction through direct relations with state bureaucracy or officials of ruling political party.
STATE CORPORATISM AND BANGLADESH
Bangladesh is a country which is characterized for its patron-client relationship between state and business groups i.e., employers and also politicization of trade union. All the major political parties maintain relationship with the business class. The case is applicable for both the public and the private sector.
Focusing our attention to the workers’ side gives us another perception. Bangladesh being a signatory of ILO convention, allows its workers to form their own associations commonly known as trade unions in order to protect, promote and improve their economic, social and political interests.
Some union leaders opined that the employers or managers are so strong that even with the workers alongside them, they could not cope with them. They firmly believed that it was easier to realize demand if they had political backing. For instance, in Bangladesh CBA are not allowed to fix wage and other benefits of the industrial workers rather these are fixed by the NPC (National Pay Commission) and Wage Board. The Government direct involvement in wage setting for workers has caused them to have affinity and loyalty towards the state bureaucracy and ruling party. Also in order to secure jobs and to resolve intra union and inter union conflict workers have loyalty towards the ruling party.
For example, after independence jute and specially textile mills grew very fast and were highly dependent upon government patronage in the form of contracts, loans, and credits. All are well connected politically and some are very active in politics.
In a study, it was revealed that union leaders and general workers are undone; they cannot realize even a reasonable demand without the support of the political parties. They require political support and political parties are also ready to provide the support. Union leaders argued that unlike the western countries, trade unions in our country are weak and unable to pursue their objectives through the normal machinery of trade union’s methods.
Beximco is a good example with regard to this. If we look at the MPs of the last few parliaments, we will see business groups have manned the parliament. Even if we have a glance at the various chambers of commerce of last decades the presidents were supporters of the ruling parties.
In state corporatism theory it is seemed that both parties place a high value on consensus and peaceful labor relations which means there is little industrial conflict. But in Bangladesh the scenario is different. There is a lack of trust between employers and workers. Especially in the RMG sector, where the situation is highly volatile. Workers activities have proved detrimental in many aspects. It has been considered as a serious bottleneck to the success of business and industry. Considering violence, death, terrorism and corruption committed by the workers in the industrial enterprises of Bangladesh, different sections of the community have made frequent demands for imposing ban on workers’ activities.
Thus, effectively, very little consensus between employers and workers is actually taking place. It could well be stated that State corporatism works only upto the loyalty part in Bangladesh and not beyond.
Mobilizing system is a socio-political system which interprets industrial social relations from a certain perspective. The ideological concept is to mobilize the non-participant factions of society through mass movements, especially among peasants and the urban marginal population, i.e., those not assimilated into modern modes of production. Workers are exhorted inspirationally to dedicate themselves to constructing a new society. The system counteracts market forces and acts to restrain the tendency of trade unions of established workers in modern production processes to advances the interests of their particular members. The political elite puts the force of the state behind its mobilizing effort and there by weakens or eliminates the power of non-state employers.
1. Encircles multitudes of socio-political strata
2. Reasserts in typically political or revolutionary forms
3. “System within system” may develop, unique and separate from the ruling governing system.
MOBILIZING SYSTEM AND BANGLADESH
Bangladesh after its inception incorporated socialism as one of its state philosophies. Mobilizing system is more of a political type. Socialism is one of the prerequisites. Socialism was adopted to ensure that individuals enjoy equal freedom in every spheres of life and state will control production, distribution, and exchange, which was impossible then.
In the time of socialism everything was nationalized. BAKSAL was formed. Process for mobilizing of peasants were taken but because of the coup everything was stopped and later on with change of state philosophy and new regime that came into power was not in favor of this type of mobilizing system.
Mobilizing system can work even if the country’s political system is not. It has been observed that various government in the Gram Sarkar, Upazilla as worked for mobilization of resources and people of the country. But the system was used to achieve political end.
Urban marginal population in Bangladesh has always actively participated in all types of political movements like those of 69,71,90s (which was again dominated by the students only). NGO’s in rural areas through micro credit and others socio economic programs are trying to reduce poverty. Each NGO is doing it in isolation. There is no co-ordination and they are not working for mass mobilization.
In Bangladesh the left wing was unable to receive the mandate of the people. Hence, it was impossible to have industrial relations that is being practiced in China. Therefore it can be said that mobilizing system has no implication in Bangladesh.
REASONS BEHIND THE FAILURE OF MOBILIZING SYSTEM IN BANGLADESH
The system counteracts market forces and acts to restrain the tendency of trade unions of established workers in modern production processes to advances the interests of their particular members. In our country labor union is in a good position. It can be difficult to mobilize the workers without unionizing them.
Secondly, Bangladesh is a small country and is more susceptible to external influences. Mobilizing system cannot work under external influence.
The political elite puts the force of the state behind its mobilizing effort and there by weakens or eliminates the power of non-state employers. This attitude will decrease the activity of NGO’s and other private organization. But, our foreign investment policy encourages foreign investment and NGO’s co-operation. That’s why mobilizing system is not going to work properly.
Socialist systems are a follow through of mobilizing systems. Whereas the mobilizing system functions to transform a primitive technology society into a modern technology society, the socialist system is a modern- technology system. Its characteristic institutional feature is central planning of all economic, activities. Trade unions and management are conceived each as functionally related agencies for the implementation of an economic policy integrally planned through the State with the participation of these agencies. The socialist system tends to encompass the whole labor force; but some socialist modes of social relations in production may exist alongside smallholder farming. The smallholder sector is taken into account in planning, though not directly controlled through planning.
1. Socialist systems have their own dynamics which tend to bring about change in the system without a change of the system. The system natures distinct interests appear between different groups of management and workers.
2. Workers have more choice of occupation and employment.
3. The inspirational quality of early mobilizing systems gives way to a more emotionally neutral, contractual employment relationship.
SOCIALIST SYSTEM IN BANGLADESH
Bangladesh is not a socialist country with a centralized planning of all economic activities. And
as socialist system indicates to a nation-scaled planning, Bangladesh automatically excludes
from this system of industrial relations. And this finding is of no surprise, because it is not
necessary for all systems to be existed in the same economy.
An important category of social relations in production is self-employed. The concept of social relations in production for self-employed sector excludes primitive production in which individual or family unit producers are covered by the subsistence and primitive labor market systems; it is confined to producing in a modern technological context.
The kinds of activity covered are quite heterogeneous. The category includes independent farmers, shopkeepers, independent service providers and independent professionals. Some of these groups have created associations through which they determine terms of work and return labor by fixing their own rules and rates, by bargaining with client groups or by putting pressure on the state.
In the less advanced “early modern” economies, most of those included in this category are small cultivators, whose independence has been guaranteed by land reform and complementary institutions such as cooperatives and agricultural credit.
In the more advanced modern economies farmers tend to be less numerous and other
service providing self-employed numerically more important.
SELF-EMPLOYMENT IN BANGLADESH
In Bangladesh, salaried wage employment in the formal sector is not large enough to employ the huge workforce. Out of the nearly thirty million workforce, only three million are in salaried employment. Majority of the women are engaged in household work without remuneration. Youths belonging to the age group of 15-30 constitute more than one-third of the total population. A large number of them being educated also remain unemployed. A possible answer to this vast problem is to inculcate the motto of self-employment among the unemployed and the underemployed.
With some training, credit facilities, advisory assistance and, above all, initiative arid organizational efforts a self-employment programme can be initiated. The relevant agencies of the Government, namely the Ministry of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation, Bangladesh Rural
Development Board and Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), under the Ministry of Labor and Manpower, have already contributed in this respect. The self-employment programmes of all these agencies are not necessarily the same. Each of them has a different approach and emphasis.