IT IS, indeed, disappointing that workers of most of the apparel factories are yet to get their festival allowance although the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association promised, earlier on August 16, that allowances would be paid by August 24. As the Industrial Police data show, about 20 per cent of the factories have so paid the festival allowance to the workers by August 24 while labour leaders said that the compliant factories that paid the allowances by that time would not exceed 10 per cent. According to the regional Industrial Police office, there are 1,073 industrial units, apparel and non-apparel, in the Ashulia zone and only 343 factories of them paid festival allowance. Taking into consideration the data, one can infer without any hesitation that the payment of the festival allowance to the workers by apparel factories is unsatisfactory as most of the owners failed to keep their promise to make the payment by August 24. It has always been difficult to repose full trust in the words of most of the owners that they would pay the festival allowance to their workers before Eid.
It was noticed in the recent past that most employers keep reneging on commitments and resorting to extraneous methods to suppress worker rights. One may recall that some factory owners’ non-payment of wages and allowances to their employees by the deadline at other times in the past prompted workers to hold protests, which in some cases turned violent, causing inconvenience to people. The workers who had expected to get paid by the deadline did not get the money. They could very well go on demonstrations before Eid. They stand the risk of passing their Eid starving, holding protests, with their families, living in outlying districts, ill-fed or half-fed. The owners need to realise that most of the workers, with females accounting for about 80 per cent, would need a day or two to travel to outlying areas to spend Eid with family and friends. As such, they needed the money by the deadline so as to have sufficient time for the travel and for buying clothes and food for their families.
As evidenced in the past, many factory owners have what could very well be termed an organic aversion to the idea of improving the workers’ standards of living with substantial increase in their pay and perks. One is, therefore, uncertain if all the factory owners will pay the workers their festival allowance before Eid-ul Adha. Under the circumstances, the government must do what it needs to see that the workers of apparel factories are paid their allowances before the festival by the owners. The BGMEA authorities also need to play their role to make this happen in the interest of the workers, who struggle to make their ends meet.