Treachery by factory owners to make matters worse
AS THE latest round of labour unrest in the apparel sector over wages continue, the factory owners, grouped under the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association, the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association, and the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, have appeared increasingly inclined to treachery. As if their proposal for a Tk 600 increase in the minimum wage for apparel workers from Tk 3,000, based on the argument that any further hike would translate into more losses for factory owners and could even lead to closure of a few factories and thus leave a number of people unemployed, was not treacherous enough, they now say that they would not be able to pay wages and festival allowances to the workers if the unrest in the sector continues. As reported in New Age on Wednesday, during a press conference at the BGMEA Bhaban, the factory owners predictably blamed the ongoing workers’ agitation, marked by violence and vandalism, on instigation by vested interest groups, to create a chaos that ultimately hinders the export business, and said that if they failed ‘to make shipment in time, workers will not get wages and festival allowances.’ Such a statement, reasoned it may appear though, amounts to a veiled threat and even blackmail, and could only deepen the workers’ discontent and intensify their agitation.
Suffice to say, such veiled threat or blackmail, whichever way one chooses to look at it, the statement ultimately betrays the typical feudal mentality of many, if not most, factory owners. They simply refuse to recognise the fact that the situation has reached such a pass because of their own mindless—and often murderous—pursuit of profit, in complete disregard for even the human dignity of the workers, let alone their well-being. While the apparel industry has been a story of stupendous success, it has also been a never-ending tale of ruthless exploitation. Not only the workers have been persistently denied a living wage, most of them have also been forced to work long hours in hazardous conditions. As it is common knowledge now, most of the apparel factories are housed in buildings that are structurally flawed and lack fire safety. Yet, until the collapse of Rana Plaza and the fire at Tazreen Fashions, which killed more than 1,200 workers, many owners had actively resisted initiatives aimed at making all apparel factories compliant, apparently to save the cost these would entail and thus widen their profit margins.
Little wonder then that the apparel sector is blighted by a pervasive trust deficit between workers and employees and that most workers believe street agitation remains the only viable means to articulate and secure their legitimate demands. Yet, when the conscious sections of society and news media try to bring the attention of the factory owners to the obvious, they are castigated and even accused of instigating unrest. The sustainable growth that the apparel factory owners froth at their mouth about is consequent upon healthy industrial relations between the employers and the employees, which, in turn, can only be ensured if and when the workers are paid a living wage and their fundamental rights and legitimate entitlements are guaranteed. Otherwise, the discontent would linger on and the apparel industry would remain too volatile and, at the same time, vulnerable to self-seeking machinations by certain quarters, similar to the one a minister of the incumbent government is accused of doing.
Hence, instead of resorting to such treacherous tactics as threat and blackmail, factory owners need to reconsider their position and come up with a proposal for an increase in the minimum wage, at least in line with the universal concept of living wage.
comments powered by Disqus
THE findings of laboratory tests conducted by the state-run Soil... Full story
There has been talk, all talk and mere talk but not much gist or tangible outcome. Indian domestic consensus on Teesta water sharing is unlikely to be reached soon. Bangladesh will have to keep on waiting with dashed hope and uncertain prospect. Full story