RMG sector: Don't ignore labour unrest

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

As the issue of Bangladesh readymade garment workers deprived of fair wages and benefits is widely discussed in the international arena, it is highly necessary to look into the matter as to why workers are not given wages as per new pay scale and their discontent over the adjustment of grades.

The new pay scale for RMG workers is supposed to be implemented from 1 December 2023. Although the new pay scale has been implemented in most of the garment factories, owners of some factories are lingering. As a result, dissatisfaction has erupted among the RMG workers.

According to the Prothom Alo report, at least workers of 10 factories in Gazipur demonstrated in the last one week seeking wages as per new pay scale and adjustment of grades. A factory was shut for an indefinite period on Monday. Besides, a unit of a factory in Savar remains shut. Following a demonstration of workers, five factories were shut down in Savar EPZ area. Later, four factories were opened. Meanwhile, in sequel to labour unrest, another factory has been shut for an indefinite period, according to the media report.

The new pay scale for RMG workers was declared at the end of last year and Tk 12,000 was fixed as minimum wage. Earlier, minimum wage was Tk 8,000. In the new pay scale, grades for workers were brought down to four from seven. As a result, the senior workers have been affected. Their wages come down to the level of junior workers. So the workers protested against this. Two workers including a woman died during the protest.

Despite so many incidents, it is unfortunate if the owners want to linger in implementing the new pay scale and cheat with the workers in the name of grade adjustment.

RMG owners association BGMEA leaders said a new pay scale has been implemented in 95 per  cent of factories. But why was the new pay scale not implemented in 5 per cent of factories?

Wage of workers is small in comparison with the operation cost of RMG factories. The factory owners should realise that a worker cannot run his or her family with Tk 12,000 in this period of high inflation. Senior workers have been deprived by lessening the number of grades, which is illogical and unacceptable. A logical solution to the problem is urgent. In this regard, a committee consisting of representatives of owners and workers can be formed.

In the wake of flouting labour rights, different quarters are apprehending that the US may target Bangladesh in implementing their labour policy. In such a circumstance, the labour unrest in the RMG section should not have existed in any way. If the labour unrest takes place in any factory, it may spread to other factories. Many such incidents took place in the past.

The workers have frustration over the new pay scale. They have accepted it as they had no options. Despite that, if the implementation of the new pay scale is delayed, the situation may go out of control.

Under such a circumstance, BGMEA, concerned factories authorities and departments should look into the matter. Let the closed factories open immediately and arrears of the workers be paid.