Many RMG workers get poor amount instead of legitimate festival allowance

Moinul Haque

Workers of many apparel factories are being deprived of legitimate festival allowance as there is no specific provision in the Bangladesh Labour Act.
As per the convention workers are entitled to festival allowance equivalent to monthly basic pay, but the apparel workers are getting a poor amount as festival allowance because of loopholes in the law causing labour unrest in the sector ahead of Eid almost every year, labour leaders said.
‘Taking the advantage of the loopholes in the law, some apparel factory owners are depriving their workers of legitimate festival allowance,’ Bangladesh Trade Union Centre secretary Wajedul Islam Khan told New Age on Friday.
There is no specific provision for festival allowance for apparel workers in the Labour Act, but it has become a convention that owners will pay the basic pay of a month as festival allowance, he said.
‘If any owner deprives the workers of the legitimate festival allowance and pay a poor amount citing the law, it will be an “evil practice” and the sector will continue to face labour unrests,’ Wajedul said.
On July 15, after a meeting with the apparel factory owners and labour leaders, the state minister for labour, Mujibul Haque, told reporters that the owners would decide how much they would pay as festival allowance for Eid according to their abilities since the law was silent on the matter.
At the meeting, the factory owners agreed to pay the workers partial wages for July and festival allowance by July 26 ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr.
‘Festival allowance for the apparel workers is not a of labour law but it is a convention and owners must pay the allowances before Eid,’ said National Garment Workers Federation president Amirul Haque Amin.
Most of the factories would perhaps pay a poor amount in the name of festival allowance which would not match the monthly basic wage, he said.
Amirul also said that the lack of specific provision for festival allowance in the law was causing labour unrest in the sector.
Most of the apparel factories would pay festival allowance to the workers but the amount would not be equivalent to the monthly basic wage as there is no specific provision in the labour law, said United Garment Workers Federation president Nazma Akter.
Large scale factories have, however, paid festival allowance to the workers as per the convention, while most of the medium and small factories are paying festival allowance ranging 20 to 50 per cent of monthly basic pay, she said.
Several hundred apparel workers of different factories on July 24 besieged the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association building in the capital demanding their wages and festival allowances.
The association vice-president Shahidullah Azim said that workers should be provided with festival allowance before Eid as per the convention even in absence of specific provision in the law.
He said that there was no unrest in the sector centring the festival allowance as the association directed its all members to pay partial wages for the current month along with festival allowance by Saturday.
‘Problems may occur in a few factories and the BGMEA is working for avoiding any untoward situation in the factories,’ Azim said.

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