Govt no less responsible for plight of RMG workers

A LITTLE more than two-thirds of apparel factories paying workers their wages for July and the festival allowance for Eid-ul-Fitr by Saturday is a good enough reason for a sigh of relief but the pang remains that about a third of the factories, as New Age reported on Sunday, did not pay workers the wage and the festival allowance by the deadline of Saturday that they had set at a meeting with the state minister for labour and employment on July 15 for the payment. Apparel workers’ leaders said that the number of factories not paying their workers by the deadline accounted for 30 per cent while the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association said that most of the factories, barring a few, had made the payment. The statement that a BGMEA vice-president made may not hold true as authorities, public or private, in most cases remain in a denial mode especially to head off untoward happening.
Apparel factory owners’ flustering about the issue of worker payment, by the deadline in question and also at other times, prompted workers to hold protests, which in some case turned violent, disrupting law and order and causing inconvenience to people. The workers, who expected to get paid by Saturday but did not get the money, had hardly any option but to go on demonstrations, with only one working day, Sunday, in hand or at best two days in all before Eid-ul-Fitr. Most of the 40 lakh apparel workers, with females accounting for about 80 per cent, would also need a day or two to travel to outlying areas to spend Eid with their families and friends. They need the money for the travel and for clothes and food for their families. Such protests for payment, which the workers have been holding for a couple of weeks, are not typical only of this Eid. This has been happening for a couple of decades as the apparel workers are not paid in time.
In view of the situation, the government has affairs to streamline, force owners to pay workers in time and take corrective measures. The state minister for home affairs, at an inter-ministerial meeting on July 23, which New Age reported the next day, said that Border Guard Bangladesh personnel had been kept standby for emergencies. Such statements only give indulgence to owners in not paying workers in time as they know that law enforcers would throw their weight behind owners, and not workers, if any protests flared up. People high up in the government should stop making such statements and the government should work out a strategy so that workers get paid in time.

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