Foreign assistance: Why were the workers deprived

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

There are allegations that factory owners formulate guidelines against the interests of the workers. But why will the government make such guidelines that workers will be deprived of fair dues or assistance?

According to Prothom Alo reports, the European Union and Germany jointly gave Tk 11.35 billion (113 million euro) to support readymade garment, leather and footwear workers who lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government added Tk 3.65 billion with the fund. Although the amount stands at Tk 15 billion, the workers received a mere Tk 90 million over three years.

In October 2020, the government issued a guideline titled ‘social protection action implementation for export-oriented RMG, leather goods and footwear industry jobless and destitute workers’ to support one million workers. 

It says a worker, who lost job due to the coronavirus, will be given Tk 3,000 a month for three months. The labour department under the labour and employment ministry was given the charge of implementing the guidelines composed by the finance ministry.

As per the guidelines, the factories will select the beneficiaries.It was said names, address, NID number, bank account number, or MFS account number and mobile number of selected workers will be sent to the association. The associations will forward that to the labour department.

A committee led by the director general of the labour department will finalise that. The money will directly be sent to the bank or MFS accounts of the workers. A 10-member committee led by the labour and employment secretary will monitor and assess the activities.

Physically handicapped workers, jobless workers and coronavirus affected workers, among others, were entitled to receive the support.

Why didn't the workers receive the assistance meant for them? Those who are supposed to answer this question are avoiding the responsibilities. The labour department made the mistake first by assigning the factory owners to make the list. None of the owners will provide the list of workers, who did not get wages or terminated, fearing that they might face music in the future.

The associations of factory owners have given a number of lists. But there are many factories which are not members of the associations. In that case, the workers of those factories will be deprived.

Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity executive director Kalpana Aktar said it would have been implemented if the initiative of the distribution was taken by the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) and the workers would have received the money. The initiative could not be implemented due to the dependence on the associations.

We also think the workers would have received the financial support easily if the responsibilities of making the list were given to the workers' associations.

It is in no way right to keep the foreign assistance for workers idle. It is expected that the DIFE will take initiatives speedily to distribute the money among the destitute and jobless workers.