Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Activists call for trust building in RMG sector

Rights activists and international buyers’ representatives on Monday asked garment owners to create trust and confidence in their relationships with workers and employees to avert labour unrest in the factories.
Establishing healthy trade union activities at the factory level is a tested mechanism of building trust and confidence between the industry owners and employees, said President of Bangladesh Jatiya Sramik Jote Shirin Akhter at a roundtable on “Minimum Wage: Implementation Challenges and Way Forward.”
“We want to introduce a healthy trade unionism at the factory level to establish the workers’ rights through creating mutual trust and confidence,” Shirin Akter said.
Practising good trade unionist modes would also help create a skilled workforce for the garment sector, she said. She asked all stakeholders to form a joint monitoring committee to oversee the wage implementation at the factories.
“The government and owners should introduce rationing of basic commodities including staples for the garment workers,” she said.
Multistakeholder Forum Bangladesh (MFB) organised the roundtable at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre to discuss the workers’ rights, garment businesses and progress of implementation of minimum wages which came into effect from November last year.
MFB is an offshoot of the international Multifibre Arrangement Forum (MFAF) founded in 2006. MFAF members from Bangladesh formed a national sub-group in Bangladesh.
MFB is working with an objective to overcome development obstacles, especially social, environmental and production standards related ones in the readymade garment industry and improve further, with the ultimate aim to enhance the social and productivity status of the industry, the product quality as well as employment conditions of workers.
At the roundtable, Basirunnabi, a representative of Swedish H and M, remarked that the grading system introduced for determining the salaries of the garment workers was wrongly designed.
“The distinction between the skilled and the unskilled workers seems inconsequential because of the wrong grading system at the factories. As a result, the workers demonstrated,” he said.
He also asked the owners to settle the issue of festival bonus through discussion with the workers. Suggesting yearly reviewing of the wages, he said many problems might be resolved through enhancing communication between the workers and the owners.
Lutful Kabir of German International Cooperation (GIZ) said the wages of the garment workers should have been increased earlier in view of the higher inflation in the country.
In the newly implemented wage structure, the grading system is not clear because it was not designed on the basis of workers’ skills and experiences, he said.
Moreover, many workers do not know about his or her grade because they were neither consulted nor made fully aware of the forthcoming changes in their salaries at the implementation stage, he added.
“In general, the productivity at the factory level in Bangladesh is 30 percent whereas we need it raised to at least 50 percent. We need to enhance the skills of the workers,” he said.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), asked the buyers to offer fair prices while the international buyers place orders to purchase apparel items from Bangladesh.
The international brands present in Bangladesh should pay compensation to the workers for any casualties in the workplace because the buyers are the major beneficiaries of the hard work put in at the garment factories, he said.
“You [the buyers] should pay fair prices for Bangladeshi garment items because we are getting much less judging our costs of production,” Murshedy said.
Israfil Alam MP, chairman of the standing committee of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, asked for introducing rationing of basic foods for the workers as a measure of wage protection. He also asked the owners to introduce transports and construction of dormitories for the workers.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Monnojan Sufian asked for enhancing productivity in the garment sector to uplift the economy.
The owners should also increase the salaries of the workers with the spiraling food inflation, she said. “We are holding talks to improve the standards of factory inspection so that any untoward incident could be tackled in advance,” she said.
While moderating the roundtable, MFA President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said 87.08 percent of garment factories implemented the minimum wage structure in the first month.
“We have seen, however, that the buyers have increased the FOB price on the rise of cotton price and we also expect that they would come forward to share the increased wage cost as well,” said Mohiuddin, also the BGMEA vice-president.


Via: The Daily Star

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