Payment of festival allowance to RMG workers is a must

It is although unacceptable but not surprising that almost half of the apparel factories did not pay festival allowance to their workers by the government-set deadline that expired on Sunday. Although the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association acting president’s statement that about 60 per cent of the apparel factories had paid the festival allowance and the rest of the factories would pay it by October sounds refreshing, there are reasons to not repose trust in it, as it was noticed in the recent past that most employers keep reneging on commitments and resorting to non-industrial and extraneous methods to suppress workers rights, with the government joining hands with the owners and letting exploitation and deprivation in the RMG sector continue by deploying the police. One example will be enough to justify our observation. The Tuba Group owner could secure his bail in the case related to a fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd, where he was managing director, and release from jail, where he landed in February 2014 after his arrest on surrender, aided by the government and the BGMEA. The police also barged into a tuba factory on his behalf and drove out people and apparel workers who had been on hunger strike since July 28, demanding payment of their dues and the festival allowance on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr that was celebrated on July 29. About 1,200 workers of five Tuba Group clothing factories went on demonstrations and finally on hunger strike to force the authorities to pay them their dues. The workers passed their Eid starving on the factory premises at Badda, with their families, living in outlying districts, ill-fed or half-fed.
As evidenced in the past, many, if not most, factory owners have what could very well be termed an organic aversion to the idea of improving the standard of living of workers with substantial increase in their pay and perks. One is, therefore, uncertain if rest of the factory owners will pay the workers their dues and the festival allowance in due time. However, if the factory owners fail to meet the workers’ justified demands this time in accordance with the promise, it will result in violent outbursts, as had happened in the recent past.
Under the circumstances, the government must do the needful to see that the workers of RMG factories are paid their dues in due time by the owners. The BGMEA authorities also need to play their role to make this happen in the interest of the workers who struggle to make their ends meet.

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