Mr. Kamal Yakub

Former President of BCA @ BCA1960

Kamal Yakub
Former President of BCA

Celebrating BCA’s Diamond
Jubilee- Serving the catering industry
for 60 years through thick and thin

Bangladesh Caterers Association (UK) Ltd
completed its 60 years of existence last year. It
really was a milestone! But as ill luck would have
it, because of the Covid-19 Pandemic and a series
of lockdowns in UK throughout the whole of last
year we couldn’t celebrate such a great occasion.
Belated it might be, we are going to make a lot of
hue and cry about it this year during our Awards
and Gala Dinner event on the7th of November at
the spectacular Hotel Intercontinental at O2.
Bangladesh Caterers Association (UK) as you
all know, is the umbrella organisation of British-
Bangladeshi restaurants and takeaways. Established
in 1960, it now represents approximately 12000
Bangladeshi establishments throughout UK. It
is a voluntary and not-for-profit platform that
basically connects almost every household of the
community. Currently our industry employs more
than 100,000 people, mostly of Bangladeshi origin
with an estimated yearly turnover of £4.2billion.
BCA, which used to be called ‘Pakistan Caterers
Association’ prior to 1972 was established in 1960
and is actually the brain-child of restaurateurs from
the then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. BCA,
now in its 61st year since inception is the largest
organisation of its kind that as mentioned earlier,
represents over 12,000 Bangladeshi Restaurants
and Takeaways throughout UK. It actively and
constantly remains engaged in working for the
benefit of the curry industry. No wonder BCA has
received recognition from the British government,
the mainstream media and the British public at
large. This of course hasn’t happened overnight;
a lot of hard work has been put in over different
eras. In the 60s, a few dozens of very dedicated
restaurant owners used BCA as a vehicle to bring
in Immigrants from Bangladesh, which thus far
has been one of the best achievements by the
Bangladeshi restaurant owners. The pioneers like
Mr. Israel Miah, who was the founder President and
a few others put in their efforts and sacrificed their
hard-earned money to make BCA work and serve
the Bangladeshi diaspora in the UK. It’s important
to mention here that BCA doesn’t only serve the
catering industry, it also serves the humanity.
BCA has always been at the forefront at the time
of humanitarian needs. Its members collectively
and individually have made huge contributions
during natural disasters like Cyclone Sidr and the
Rohingya Crisis. BCA also comes forward to help in
humanitarian crisis in other parts of the world. This
is the beauty and strength of this platform.
Over the years under different leadership and
dedicated members BCA became more and more
known to Bangladeshi Restaurateurs and to the
general people of the Bangladeshi Community in
Britain and in Europe. During the 90s under the
dynamic leadership of our late friend Mr. Abdur
Rahim the popularity of BCA really excelled. This
is when the membership base took off from a few
dozens to hundreds and into thousands. His early
demise left all his relatives, friends, colleagues and
well-wishers speechless and in grief for a while, but
then as life goes on, activities in BCA restarted with
a revitalised vigour and enthusiasm.
It was during the presidentship of Mr. Mahmadar
Rashid that the foundation of the present structure
of BCA was laid. The Annual Dinner and Award
Ceremony was first started by Mr. Rashid in 2006
and now it has become the most awaited yearly
event. This year BCA is going to hold its 15th Annual
Awards and Dinner ceremony at the prestigious
Hotel Intercontinental, O2. The standard and
demand for this yearly event seems to increase

year by year. The yearly Award and Gala Dinner
events not only highlights the achievements of our
restaurateurs and talented chefs, it also gives us an
opportunity to meet and greet caterers and their
families from all over UK. In addition to Restaurant
& Chef Awards, BCA also gives Honour Awards to
people like parliamentarians, Lords and Baronesses
and other dignitaries or community leaders who
have supported and helped BCA achieve its goals.
In the past these Honour Awards were given to
people like Sir Kier Starmer MP, Sir Mike Penning
MP, Paul Scully MP, Stephen Kings MP, Lord Kiron
Billimoria, Lord Rami Ranger, Lord Sheikh, Rushnara
Ali MP and Dr. Rupa Huq MP. Our events are always
attended by high-level government officials like
Secretaries of State and other Parliamentarians,
Lords, Baronesses as well as other dignitaries and
celebrities. Their presence is very important to
BCA, because our messages are heard by people
who can actually make a difference.
Over the last decade or so Bangladeshi restaurants
and takeaways have been facing acute staff
shortage. BCA has always campaigned to
overcome this issue. During Mr. Mahmadar Rashid’s
term, when the sector-based pilot scheme was
started, BCA was consulted by the Home Office
as being stake holders. There were a series of
meetings with Immigration policy makers and as a
result, thousands of our caterers were able to bring
over unskilled workers from Bangladesh under
the ‘Sector Based Scheme’. But unfortunately, the
scheme did not continue and later Points based
Scheme was introduced. During these times Mr.
Bajloor Rashid was the President & Mr. Pasha
Khandakar was the Secretary General of BCA and
a huge protest demonstration against UKBA raids
and campaigning for staff shortage was organised
under their leadership in 2008.
The demonstration was a huge success with more
than 25,000 caterers congregating at Trafalgar
Square. Following this, BCA was consulted by
MAC (Migration Advisory Committee). The then
Head of MAC, Professor Metcalfe invited President
Bajloor Rashid and a few other senior members
of BCA to the Home Office and asked for putting
in suggestions and provide survey reports to help
bring in skilled restaurant staff from Bangladesh.
BCA leadership worked relentlessly to carry out a
national survey, the result of which were accepted
by MAC and subsequently Bangladeshi Chefs
were included in the shortage occupation list’(SOL)
of Tier-2 of the Points based system. A lot of our
fellow caterers took advantage of this inclusion
and succeeded in bringing in skilled chefs from
Bangladesh. BCA by now had achieved enough
to be recognized by her Majesty, The Queen and
honour Mr. Bajloor Rashid with an MBE. This was
because of his contributions to the Bangladeshi
community and the curry industry.
However, it has to be said that almost certainly
for political reasons Tier-2 has been made stricter
and more complex. In 2012 Pasha Khandakar was
elected as the President, M A Munim as Secretary
General and Abdul Malik as Chief Treasurer of BCA.
At the time BCA’s membership had spiraled up to
about 4000. During their time fresh campaigning
and lobbying was started to tackle our staff shortage
crisis. BCA started lobbying with the government
for issues directly affecting its members. Issues
BCA was concentrating on were: UKBA raids, VAT
and staff shortages. Following protests by BCA
about the unfairness on Immigration raids, BCA
was invited to the Home Office to attend an allday
meeting and workshop programme where
the Head of UKBA and its Regional Directors from
around UK were present to share views on the
issue and finally UKBA representatives promised to
be fair and respectful in their raids. It was agreed
that BCA and UKBA would work together to bring
awareness amongst Bangladeshi caterers. BCA was
also campaigning against VAT increase which had
added salt to the injuries caused by the worst ever
recession. This had brought about a further decline
in our businesses. BCA then joined hands in hands
with ‘VAT Club’ to lobby for a reduction in VAT.
BCA also launched a ‘Reduce VAT Campaign’
from House of Lords. Regional BCA members
also started to lobby with their local MPs to make
their voices heard. To gain support and present
our cases strongly, BCA leadership had a meeting
with Mr. Billy Hayes, the General Secretary of the
‘Communications Trade Union’ and sought his
support to combat our problems and Mr. Hayes
had actually agreed to support and help us. This
took our campaign to a much higher level. Most
BCA AWARD 2021 51
of our fellow caterers were suffering from staff shortages. We needed to lobby with the Government to
allow us to bring skilled and unskilled staff from Bangladesh with ease, because employing staff from
Bangladesh was made very difficult under Tier2 Shortage Occupation List. BCA was determined to carry
on with its campaign till the procedures were made a little more affordable and less complex. In April
2014 All Party Parliamentarian Group (APPG) was launched, presided by Baroness Paula Monzila Uddin
when we had nearly 60 parliamentarians who joined the group, this gave us added strength. The group
exists till today and is chaired by Paul Scully MP, currently Minister for London who is a very dear friend of
the BCA family and is always by our side whenever we need his help.
During Pasha Khandaker’s election campaign one of the top pledges was to form 20 regions in order to
decentralise power and create local support by the regions. Soon after 15 regions were formed, which
made BCA’s voice stronger. During 2 terms in office Pasha Khandaker had dedicated his time and efforts
to serving BCA as well as the community and other charitable works which soon earned him an Honour
Award from Her Majesty, the Queen and he was made an MBE.
In 2017, I became the President of BCA- supported by Secretary General Oli Khan (who later also received
the Queen’s Honour Award MBE for his services to the catering industry and the community) and Chief
Treasurer Saidur Rahman Bipul. We carried on the legacy of the previous BCA leaders. The burning issues
still were staff-shortage and UKBA raids and High VAT. We started campaigning on these issues with the
support of a lot of parliamentarian friends and other dignitaries. To attract more support from the public
and media, we held a static Demonstration in front of House of Commons on 10th of July 2018, attended
by more than 3000 caterers from all over UK. Following this we submitted papers supporting our cause to
MAC. This resulted in some relaxation of the stringent criteria of the ‘Shortage Occupation List’, but we
needed further relaxation- so we kept carrying on with our campaign. One of our Demonstration agenda
was also to ask the government to regularize the skilled undocumented workers of the industry- this
would have helped our sufferings from staff shortage to some extent. Our Prime Minister Boris Johnson
did talk about an amnesty- hope it materializes soon.
In 2019 a new leadership came under the Presidentship of M A Munim, Secretary General Mitu Choudhury
and Chief Treasurer Saidur Rahman Bipul. They also continued with BCA’s activities but were soon halted
by COVID-19. Businesses came to a standstill with a series of lockdowns which badly affected the catering
industry. Although the government helped through Job Retention Schemes, Grants, loans and VAT
reduction many restaurants had to close their doors permanently. Despite the hardships being faced
by restaurants and takeaways, a lot of our BCA members delivered hundreds of thousands of free meals
to NHS and other frontline workers. They also continued to give massive discounts to these frontline
workers, because our caterers believe they are the real heroes who are ready to sacrifice their own lives
to save others; we salute them for their sacrifices.
Thankfully, because businesses were allowed to open their doors to customers from 19th of July 2021,
BCA has started to resume its activities. Last year’s Award ceremony had to be missed because of COVID,
but this year it is going to be held on the 7th of November at the prestigious Intercontinental Hotel at
O2. We are not only going to hold the award ceremony, but are also going to celebrate belated Diamond
Anniversary of BCA as well as Bangladesh’s 50 years of independence. We are very much excited and
looking forward to meeting our friends and colleagues whom we haven’t met for nearly 2 years!
BCA is also going to resume its campaigns and lobbying at a more energized spirit to tackle staff
shortages and other burning issues. Apart from this, BCA leadership is always looking for special cost
saving packages for its members. Unlike lobbying, better deals are achieved only with increased numbers
of members. So, all Bangladeshi caterers should take advantage of what BCA has to offer by becoming
its members. BCA is a platform like no other which as we know is the oldest and largest of its kind outside
Bangladesh. May this platform be our pride and may we hold it close to our hearts for generations to
come.