Sunday, June 16, 2024

Workers wage issue drowned by political turmoil’

The prolonged political turmoil over the next general election is not only degrading the country’s political climate but also creating a scope for the readymade garment (RMG) owners to dodge the workers’ demand for hiking their minimum wage, observed workers’ leaders, reports UNB. Though both Awami League and BNP claim to represent the majority of the people, the causes of 40 lakh garment workers — the rights to earn living wages, safe working environment, and to have the real scope to form basic trade union — have received no attention in the mainstream political agenda, they alleged.
Talking to the news agency, Garment Workers’ Unity Forum president Moshrefa Mishu said this silence and disregard could be heard loud in recent times as none of the two parties have not come forward with any suggestion to resolve the dispute over the minimum wages of workers’ between the unions and the owners in the sector.
The mechanism of a tripartite consensus on the wages among the Labour Ministry, the workers’ representatives and the owners representatives through the minimum wages board is also being affected and delayed by the recent political crisis, she added.
“The wages were to be declared by the minimum wages board within three months of the formation, whereas the board placed its recommendations after five months. And we see the recommendation of Tk 5,300 minimum wage is not at all acceptable,” Mishu said.
She said there were instances that owners’ representatives declined to attend a meeting of the wages board by showing causes of hartals. “Actually, they (owners) used the hartal as alibis for delaying the process, with an aim to diffuse the movement for living wages as far as they can.”
On the other hand, she continued, the workers also had to remain cautious about declaring mass programmes to gear up the movement for Tk 8,000 minimum wage, considering the chance of getting at the crossroad of the political conflict.
“Pressing home the demand for the logical minimum wage has been a tough task amid the recent political conflict. Workers have no parties and we always want to ensure that our protests are not guided towards violence and destruction of the industry,” said Mishu.
“And we see, the political leaders of both the ruling and the opposition parties are not speaking a single word about the minimum wage. Awami League and BNP have unlimited unity in this regard,” she said, “How can they speak for us? They actually serve the interest of the owners. Everyone knows these parties consist of a good number of RMG owners.”
Socialist Labour Front general secretary Razequzzaman Ratan said the causes of workers, farmers and other oppressed classes have long been being dumped beneath the loads of the political doldrums by AL and BNP.
“These parties are in fact parties for the industry owners, not for the workers. You see the recent amendment to the RPO Act (Representation of the People (Amendment) Order Act 2013). The limit of the election expenditure of a candidate in the national election has been extended from Tk 15 lakh to Tk 25 lakh.”
“The amendment has also relaxed the limits for a candidate’s involvement with a party. These are steps to invite more businessmen in the politics,” he added.
“Official figures show, we have 5.73 lakh workers in various sectors in the country. Let’s not only think about the RMG sector. Are the rights of all the workers, who are the majority of the people, ensured by the state?” he questioned.
Asked about the RMG owners’ denial of the recommendation by the minimum wages board to raise the wages of the workers at Tk 5,300, Razequzzaman said, “It’s a trick by the owners. They’re taking the chance of the political instability and trying to shift the focus from the demand of Tk 8,000 minimum wage.”
About the owners’ threat to shut down all the factories and the demand to have an exit plan from the government, Razequzzaman said, “They (owners) can’t legally lay-off the factories without any discussion with the workers.”
Both Moshrefa Mishu and Razequzzaman Ratan noted that despite all the misty politics of the ruling class, the RMG workers are resolute to stand firm with their demands and are getting united to forge a strong movement for ensuring a satisfactory minimum wage.

-With The News Today input

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