Home Bangladesh Fashion makers ignoring workers’ fair demand
Bangladesh - November 5, 2023

Fashion makers ignoring workers’ fair demand

Zarif Mahmud: Discussions are underway with the Minimum Wage Board to increase the wages of garment workers. Four meetings have already been held and in the third meeting both the employers and workers have submitted their respective proposals. In the fourth meeting on November 1, the wage proposal was also discussed. The fifth meeting of the wage board is scheduled to be held on November 7 and the minimum wage for garment workers may be finalized in this meeting.
Sources told that the BGMEA is going to allow $100 equivalent amount of Tk 11,500 against the demand of Tk 25,000. Experts said, in the prevailing market scenario, the wage of RMG worker should be at least $150 or Tk 17,250 per month.
Even as the issue of wage finalization is going on, there has been extreme unrest in the garment sector. In the last few days, the workers in the garment industry areas took to the streets and protested to demand Tk 23,000 as wages. Factories were vandalized, workers were attacked and workers were killed. But the unrest and the violence that has erupted over demands for a wage hike have been evidence of outsiders’ involvement. The observation of industrial police, BGMEA and trade unions has found such information.
Meanwhile, about 450 garment factories in Gazipur, Savar and Ashulia areas were closed due to violence, all garment factories including them will be opened on Saturday. Because of this, there is fear of labor dissatisfaction even today. However, the BGMEA leaders held regular meetings with law enforcement officers and labor leaders on Friday and last Thursday so that the workers do not leave work and go to the streets and the situation remains normal. To protect the industry, they sought security from the law enforcement agencies and requested the labor leaders to convince the workers to keep calm. The information is said to have spoken to several people who participated in those meetings.
When asked about BGMEA’s observations on the labor unrest of the last few days, Shahidullah Azim, the vice president of the owners’ organization, told Time Light on Friday, “In the areas where the violence took place, the presence of outsiders was more than
the garment workers.” Among those who attacked factories, there were fewer workers, more outsiders. Because it was seen that after closing the factory in the evening, all the workers left. However, the factory was attacked around 10 pm. The workers did not come to attack that night, outsiders attacked. We think that there is political fuel behind it. Because there is already political unrest in the country. At this time, the political parties can gain advantage by inciting the garment workers. We have called upon the law enforcement agencies to keep an eye on these issues as well.
The BGMEA president also said, “About 4500 garment factories in various areas were closed due to the labor unrest of the last few days. All garment factories including those closed will be opened on Saturday (today). We have sought the cooperation of the BGB, Industrial Police, RAB, and intelligence agencies so that the workers do not again go on the streets and create unrest or vandalize the factories. Last Thursday we discussed these issues in a meeting with the senior officials of the law enforcement agencies. They have also assured us that they will not allow any further instability in the garment industry. Law and order forces will use whatever force is necessary for this. However, we would like to give a stern warning to the workers – if any factory is attacked again, the factory will be closed as per the provisions of Section 13 (1) of the Labor Act. It means no work, no pay. As long as the factory is closed, the workers will not get their wages.
Some foreign-funded NGOs or labor union leaders are also believed to be fueling the labor unrest. Some other trade union leaders are suspicious of trade unions funded by some donors, especially those in America and Europe.
Sirajul Islam Roni, the president of Jatiya Garments Sramik League and the representative of the labor side in the minimum wage board, has given this in the light of time. He said, there are some fake labor organizations – which run on the money of foreigners. Bringing dollars from abroad, they use it to incite the workers, creating unrest in the industry. They have given wrong messages to the workers and provoked them. Because when the wage board is discussing wages, why would such an incident happen? I have offered 20,000 more wages considering the interests of the workers. However, the leaders of the Bhuiphond labor union told the workers that the owner would finalize the offer of Tk 10,400. By saying these things, the workers have been provoked. They planned these acts of violence to destabilize the wage board and create unrest in the industry.
He further said, “Beyond this, there is also political fuel and the conflict of interests at the local level, including the conflict of fake business, also has the effect of these workers’ discontent.” Because it has been seen that one factory owner belongs to one group, another to another group. When labor unrest occurs, the opponent gets an opportunity to damage the factory. Again, many local Mastan groups are angry with various factory owners around fake business. They also take advantage when instability occurs. So, there are many reasons behind the recent labor unrest. But whatever the reason-I say to the workers-don’t fall into anyone’s trap. Don’t get on the road at someone’s instigation. Discussions are going on about wages – hopefully we can announce a good wage.
Another labor leader, Touhidur Rahman, fearing the participation of outsiders in the labor movement, said, “However, I think that the industrial owners and those who are with the wage board are also responsible here. Because the wage board is taking a lot of time to declare wages. They could have announced the final wages earlier. They have wasted time by not doing that. The workers have become angry. Apart from this, political unrest is going on in the country now. Workers also fear that their wage hike could be suspended due to political unrest. We hope that nothing will happen, but if the wage board had completed the work earlier, the workers might not have taken to the streets.
Various meetings throughout the day
BGMEA leaders and law and order enforcement forces including the industrial police have held meetings all day long on Friday as all garment factories will open on Saturday. Siddiqur Rahman, former president of BGMEA and owner’s representative in the wage board, held a meeting with several labor leaders at Radisson Hotel in the capital. In the meeting, he sought cooperation from the labor leaders so that the workers do not take to the streets on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the members of law and order enforcement including the industrial police also held meetings on Friday. When called on the mobile phone of Industrial Police Chief Mahbubur Rahman, he said in the light of time, “All factories will open on Saturday.” Therefore, we are sitting in an emergency meeting regarding the overall situation.

Check Also

Govt plans to borrow Tk 2.5 tr for budgetary support in FY 2025

Mahfuja Mukul: Government’s dependence on debt to meet development and operational expendi…