Workers' satisfaction must for a vibrant RMG sector
Garment workers of a factory blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway at Chhoydana Degerchala in Gazipur on Sunday morning demanding their unpaid salaries. Several vehicles came under attack on the spot. The workers got involved in strife with the law enforcers, and the highway was sealed-off for five hours. The disgruntled workers complained that the factory authority had paid them half of their salary and wages for the month of August, and promised to pay the rest at the beginning of September. The factory owners set several dates for payment but did not pay, the workers claimed. Other allegation against the authority is providing unsafe drinking water which caused 50 workers to fall sick.
A few days ago garment workers took to the streets in Dhaka rejecting the government decision to increase minimum wage to Tk 8,000 from Tk 5,300 per month. The garment workers demanded Tk 18,000. Union leaders and workers also described the new wage as a 'joke' and a 'slap on the face'.
Agitation over salary and wages related issues in the RMG sector in Bangladesh is not a new phenomenon. We often come to witness workers taking to the streets over various issues. There is no job security in the sector. Minimum wage is too little to lead a decent life. There are not enough opportunities to acquire skills. Compliance requirements are not often met in the smaller factories.
These factors are the primary reasons to foment agitation among the workers. Another important reason for the protests is that the workers think the government is always biased in favour of the factory owners. It is perceived to be the main reason behind the workers' resentment.
The RMG sector in Bangladesh is a labour-intensive sector, and that is why workers are the vital element to ensure the growth of this industry. And smooth exports of RMG products ensure the growth and economic progress of the country. This sector is considered to be the golden goose for Bangladesh, which contributes to more than 80 per cent of the country's export earnings. If the sector turns dysfunctional, economic repercussions will be severe. Additionally, it is one of the key sectors of the job market. The sector employs an estimated 40 million workers, mostly women.
Therefore, agitation in this sector makes the economy uncertain. If the workers abstain from working by taking their demands to the streets, performance and productivity of the factories go down. We draw immediate attention of the said factory owner/s and RMG authorities, to pay the workers' pending salaries as quickly as possible. Procrastination in this regard will only invite more danger.