Some gaps need to be plugged in the EU's nine-point action plan for Bangladesh in order to obtain the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus status after the country's graduation from a least developed nation in 2024.
One of the major gaps lies in the freedom of association as factory workers still need the participation of 20 per cent of their colleagues to form a union. The threshold was reduced from 30 per cent through an amendment to the labour law. However, the 20 per cent threshold is still high when considering that many factories have thousands of workers.
Besides, representatives of various workers' organisations complain that union leaders are only allowed to be selected from workers of the establishment concerned. This enables employers to force out union leaders by firing them for other reasons, such as 'unruly behaviour'. However, the term 'unruly behaviour' was not properly defined in the labour law. As per the law, the government has the power to stop a strike or lockout if there is concern of "serious hardship to the community" or if the protest is "prejudicial to national interest". However, the related terms are not properly defined by law in the discriminatory anti-strike provisions.
Obtaining the GSP Plus status is important for Bangladesh since the EU is the country's largest export destination. Some three fifths of Bangladesh's total exports and two thirds of the total garment export are destined for the EU, where they enjoy duty free access under the EU's everything but Arms (EBA) scheme. However, this generous preference on export would be eroded when the country graduates to a developing country in 2024, as per the rules of the EU GSP facility for LDCs.