Rising living cost, wage delay major reasons

Shakhawat Hossain

The home ministry has identified about half a dozen factors, including failure of owners to pay wages to the workers timely and rising cost of living, which are causing instability in the ready-made garment sector, officials have said.
Besides, termination of workers without notice, workers’ demand for increase in different benefits, unusual increase in house rents and instigation by the workers’ associations remained the other major problems facing the burgeoning RMG industry, they said.
The home ministry officials discussed their findings and overall situation in the RMG sector with leaders of the owners’ associations at a meeting at the secretariat on Thursday.
State minister for home Asaduzzaman Khan presided over the meeting amid pressure from the RMG workers to disburse wages and allowances before the Eid.
He told reporters after the meeting that the government had asked the owners to clear the festival allowances and wages by September 28 and October 2 respectively.
He said they had also asked the owners to settle the problems to prevent unrest.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers
and Exporters Association president Atiqul Islam and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association president AKM Salim Osman attended the meeting.
Asaduzzaman said the leaders of the associations had agreed to resolve the problems.
The home ministry officials told New Age that 105 RMG factories did not clear last month’s pay to the workers until September 15.
They said they had information about 132 factories facing problems over payment for the current month. Of the factories, 58 are located in Narayanganj, 49 in Savar and Ashulia and 45 in Tongi and Gazipur.
They did not want to name the factories.
Garment workers staging demonstrations for dues before the Eids has become a regular phenomenon in recent years.
During the last Eid festival in July, more than 5,000 workers of Tuba Garments besieged BGMEA Bhaban in the city for wages and allowances and a large number of them staged hunger strike for over a week before being dispersed by the police.
The home ministry officials said they had already asked the intelligence agencies to strengthen monitoring so that no unwarranted incidents took place in the RMG hubs in and on the outskirts of the capital.
The RMG sector is the mainstay of the country’s exports. It accounted for about 80 per cent of the $30.18 billion exports of the country in last fiscal year.
Knitwear exports fetched $12.04 billion and woven garment $12.44 billion.
Nearly 4,000 RMG factories in Dhaka and Chittagong have employed over four million workers, mostly women.
The export target for woven garment in the current fiscal has been set at $15 billion, while for knitwear it is about $14 billion.
Despite steady progress, deadly incidents like fire and building collapse, and the noncompliance by owners have tainted the image of the country’s garment sector.
Bangladesh has lost duty benefit known as Generalised System of Preference to send it products to the US market for poor workers’ safety.
Over 1,133 workers died in the collapse of Rana Plaza, housing several apparel factories, at Savar alone in April 2013. The worst factory tragedy in recent memory took place six months after the death of 117 apparel workers in a devastating fire in the factory of Tazreen Fashions.
The incidents drew the world’s attention to the working conditions in Bangladesh’s RMG sector.
The RMG workers in Bangladesh are paid poorly. The minimum monthly wage of a worker is Tk 5,300 equivalent to $68.12.

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