43 problems linked to labour unrest in RMG sector

Dhaka, June 21 (Priyo.com): A set of proposals intended to address 43 problems linked to labour unrest has been sent to the highest authorities of the government and stakeholders in a bid to save the country's readymade garment (RMG) sector, sources said.

Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan recently sent the proposals to Prime Minister's Office, concerned ministries, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and labour rights organisations for taking necessary measures.

According to sources, the proposals came in line with the directive of the Prime Minister.

Following frequent labour unrest in the Ashulia industrial belt, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held a meeting with the Home, the Labour and the Shipping Ministers and instructed them to talk to both the owners and the workers. She also asked them to come up with recommendations.

The garment industry, accounting for 80 per cent of the country's total export earnings, has evoked extensive criticism and came into sharp focus both in local and international arena especially after the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed at least 1,130 people, mostly women workers.

Following the Tazreen blaze and the Savar tragedy, labour unrest is prevailing in the sector over various issues including health and workplace safety, wage hike and other benefits and right to form trade unions.

"According to the directive from the PM, I have made the proposals that identified the reasons of recent problems and also made some recommendations for owners, workers and the government to solve the problems and save the sector," Mr Shahjahan Khan told the FE Wednesday.

The papers have also been sent to all including the PMO, concerned ministries and stakeholders, he said adding they had meetings with workers' representatives and both registered and non-registered labour rights organisations and federations on May 16, 22, 28 and 29.

These meetings identified 30 problems faced by the workers including trade union formation in garment factories, dismissal of workers who try to form unions, lack of trust between owners and workers, misbehaviour of mid-level management and absence of discussion or meeting between owners and workers.

There are 37 registered and 33 non-registered workers' federations in the garment sector which have so far failed to form trade unions as per factory law. The meetings also suggested that the non-registered labour organisations should be stopped.

The 30-point problems also focused on speedy declaration of new wage structure with tiffin, lunch and other benefits, inclusion of annual increment in it, two festival bonuses every year, provision of appointment letters, stoppage of termination of workers without any reason.

'Jhut' business, specific policy regarding trade unions and NGO activities also came up for discussion in the meeting while labour groups also demanded arrest of the Tazreen factory owner and compensation for the victims of the Rana Plaza collapse.

The three ministers also held meetings with the BGMEA and the BKMEA leaders on May 20, 27 and 30.

The problems identified in the owners' meetings are labour activists instigating the workers and extortion of money from the owners to pacify the workers. The ministers were told that the buyers are leaving Bangladesh following unrest and political turmoil.

The paper made 15 recommendations for the owners that include allowing trade unions with no owners' interference, implementation of new wage structure with other benefits, removal of disparity among factories regarding wage and other benefits, reduction of differences between workers and owners and meetings between the two groups at least once in two months. The other recommendations are introduction of service books and appointment letters, keeping jhut business outside the factories, taking necessary steps against the mid-level management staff who abuse workers and adherence to the labour law.

The 10-point recommendations for workers are formation of single trade union in each factory and keeping themselves aloof from vandalism.

The labour leaders should take responsible role in controlling unrest without instigating them for creating unrest, it was suggested.

It was also recommended that if any worker is found involved in any criminal activities or does harm to the factory, legal action should be taken against him or her.

The 14-point recommendations for the government include speedy and strict implementation of labour law, stoppage of activities of non-registered labour rights organisations, strengthening of industrial police, implementation of house rent law and monitoring whether house owners are providing copies of house rent documents and whether dormitories are built for workers.

The government should also arrest the Tazreen factory owner and compensate the Rana Plaza collapse victims along with the BGMEA and other organisations.

However, the minister said that both the owners and the workers' representatives in a meeting held on June 18 agreed to form a committee to look into the issues.

News Source: 
The Financial Express