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VOL 24 NO 36 REGD NO DA 1589 | Dhaka, Friday, December 16 2016
Posted : 16 Dec, 2016 00:00:00 AA-A+
91pc RMG workers face abuses, survey reveals
Situation worsens in three years
Monira Munni

Workers in the country's readymade garment (RMG) industry work under abusive situation, which has further worsened in 2016 compared to that of three years back, according to a recent survey report.

About 91 per cent of the surveyed workers, irrespective of their gender, faced abuses in the RMG units sometimes or often in comparison to 61 per cent in 2013, it revealed.

Awaj Foundation, a local NGO, and Hong Kong-based Consulting Service International Ltd jointly conducted the survey between November 2015 and March 2016.

Report of the survey - 'The Workers' Voice Report 2016 - the Working Conditions in Bangladesh's RMG Industry after Rana Plaza' - was prepared on the basis of interview of some 1,007 workers to evaluate the working condition in 333 textile and garment factories in Bangladesh.

In 2013, about 40 per cent of 1,000 surveyed workers from over 300 factories said they had never seen or heard about any abuses in their factories.

According to the present report, most of the abused workers suffered offensive behaviour on a regular basis, and abuses remained a common feature in Bangladesh's RMG sector, irrespective of minor changes in frequency.

Factory managers and line supervisors were reported to verbally intimidate and pressurise workers to complete orders by using foul language and scolding, including sexual insinuation, it said.

Workers complained that they were forced to work overtime hours or when unwell just to meet production targets.

"Very few of those, who experienced abuses, opposed such untenable conditions," the report mentioned.

Some 11 per cent of the surveyed workers complained to their respective administrators, eight per cent of the respondents protested the abusive behaviour, while 0.5 per cent attempted to resign.

The overwhelming majority of 67 per cent remained silent, as they were afraid of negative reactions by the accused and the factory management. The pressure to support their family weighs more than personal humiliation by abuses, it added.

According to the report, the factory authorities denied to allow the workers maternity and sick leaves, and delayed their payment or did not give due wages at all.

Employment hardship is often accompanied by poor living conditions, and high rental costs consume a significant amount of the workers' monthly wage, the study also showed.

This is an enormous financial burden for the workers, as each of them paid more than Tk 2,500 per month for their accommodation from an average salary (without overtime) of Tk 6,183, an amount below the national poverty line.

The report said low wage of workers has been the major driver of the country's RMG sector competitiveness after the phasing out of Multi Fibre Agreement.

Besides, the minimum wage was not paid to all the workers interviewed. Some 7.6 per cent of the workers earned less than the legally-set minimum wage of Tk 5,300, excluding overtime, it showed.

The report recommended creating a supportive environment for women, introducing respect and dignity in the factory, and setting up complaint mechanisms, such as - anti-harassment committees and violence prevention systems, to eliminate harassment and violence against all workers.

"Participation from within the workforce is required to implement such initiatives successfully. The dialogue approach can be useful to integrate workers, supervisors and management in devising better strategies to improve working conditions. Buyers need to pressurise their suppliers to provide an atmosphere in the factories that is devoid of violence and abuses," it added.

However, fully disagreeing with the report, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Md Siddiqur Rahman said, "The working condition in the RMG sector has significantly improved in last three years. The rate of abusive behaviour with the workers is insignificant in the sector."

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