Industrial Relations in Bangladesh: A Comparative Scenario between Public & Private Sectors

By Absar, Mir Mohammed Nurul | Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, July 2012 | Go to article overview

Industrial Relations in Bangladesh: A Comparative Scenario between Public & Private Sectors


Absar, Mir Mohammed Nurul, Indian Journal of Industrial Relations


Introduction

One of the major functions of human resource management is to maintain smooth industrial relations (IR). It is also treated as one of the oldest functions of HRM. It is basically allied with the relations between the employer and the workers in the industry (Singh & Kumar, 2011: 3). According to Weeratunga (2003: 5) "Industrial Relations or Labor Relations, the terms used interchangeably, can be viewed as the interaction between the various interested parties involved in employment. The employer and the employee are obvious parties. The state, in ensuring a level playing field for both sides, provides the legal framework within which such relations may take place". In industrial relations, workers are generally represented by their trade unions formed under chapter 13 of Bangladesh Labor Act--2006 whereas employers are represented by their associations such as Bangladesh Employers Federation. HR managers mediate the relationships between workers and employers though they are appointed by the representatives of employers. Another related term is 'Employee Relations'. Though both the terms industrial relations and employee relations are structurally similar (Decenzo & Robbins, 1999: 18), employee relations includes, in addition to industrial relations, such aspects as participative management, employee wellbeing, employee development, employee compensation, employee protection and health, and the like (Aswathappa, 2008:534). Generally industrial relations cover the areas such as trade unions, collective bargaining, settlement of industrial disputes, grievance handling procedure, role of government, labor laws, courts and tribunals and role of employers. In the context of developing countries, industrial relations has been influenced by features such as high exploitation of workers, low level of worker participation in decision making, government and political interferences, high rate of illiteracy of workers, low level of employment, low level of awareness among the laborers regarding rights, laws, and trade unionism, and low labor productivity (Khan & Taher, 2008: 222-23).

Industrial relations plays an important role in establishing and maintaining industrial democracy (Monappa, 2004: 9) and it is the key to improve productivity in industrial enterprises (Aswathappa, 2004: 534). Human resource management can play vital roles in enhancing cooperative and friendly industrial relations. In Bangladesh, collective bargaining on pay between employer and workmen is prohibited in the public sector enterprises as the government designs uniform pay and benefits for the employees of all public sector enterprises (Mahmood, 2008). The limited scope of collective bargaining in the public sector of Bangladesh influences the trade unions to develop network with government, political parties and other powerful bodies in organizing their activities. It hinders effective interactions between the representatives of employers and workers at enterprise level. Though performance based pay is considered to have significant impact on employee performance (Dessler & Varkkey, 2010: 15), it is not at all practiced by the public sector enterprises in Bangladesh. As a result, public sector enterprises in Bangladesh have been incurring huge losses. On the other hand, all types of collective bargaining takes place at enterprise level in case of private sector enterprises (Khan, 1996). Mahmood (2008) mentioned that the industrial relations process in the private sector was often disturbed by links between private and public sector unions.

Objectives

a) To explore the differences between public and private sector industrial enterprises of Bangladesh with respect to overall status of IR.

b) To put forward policy implications of overall improvement in IR of Bangladesh.

Industrial Relations Studies in Bangladesh

Khan (1986) studied industrial relations in Bangladesh with special emphasis on trade unionism. …

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