On Monday, the Bangladesh Parliament approved a new law aimed at expanded worker rights, especially in the garment industry. The law grants factory workers the right to unionize, as well as requires insurance for factory workers.
An important part of this law is that workers in the factory do not need approval from the factory owners for trade union, which previously was a major barrier to labor rights. In addition, all structure changes to factories must be approved by governmental inspectors before beginning construction. The law also requires that 5% of annual profits be deposited in employee welfare funds.
Many lawmakers hailed the legislations as a major advancement. The head of the parliamentary sub-committee on labor issues, Israfal Alam, told reporters "the new laws are historic." However, labor leaders are reluctant to praise the measures just yet. Labor leader Wajedul Islam told reporters "We had raised some concerns. We hope they have addressed those issues. Otherwise this legislation will be a futile exercise." The president of the Workers Party of Bangladesh and a member of parliament, Rashed Khan Menon, said "They have made progress but the government rushed with it. They should have spent more time to deliberate on the issue of compensation for the injured and dead, maternity benefits and rights of domestic workers."
The legislation comes after Bangladesh received international scrutiny in the wake of a garment factory collapse that killed over 1,000 workers, mostly women. Approximately 80% of the garment factory workforce in Bangladesh are women who are often responsible for providing for their families. Under grueling working conditions, workers in garment factories can make as little as $26 a month. Last month, President Obama revoked trade privileges with Bangladesh, citing the poor working conditions in factories.
Media Resources: Al Jazeera 7/15/2013; Reuters 7/15/2013; Feminist Newswire 5/10/2013, 5/9/2013
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .