The Dhaka Tribune has received such remarks in the aftermath of the devastating fire at Tampaco Foils Limited in Tongi that raised questions about worker safety due to the absence of a trade union in the packaging factory.
Trade unions have grown in the export-oriented RMG sector due to mounting pressures post-Rana Plaza.
According to the Department of Labour, there are only five trade unions in the packaging industry. These factories are located in Dhaka division while there are 522 trade unions in RMG factories, of which 434 are in Dhaka division.
Although export-oriented sectors such as RMG have seen rise in union registration in recent years, the manufacturing industries producing for local markets has not unions in the real sense. Workers’ leaders and rights groups blame legal complications.
“Prolonged registration process, lack of initiatives by trade union federations and owners’ negative attitude are key reasons behind this sorry state,” said Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, assistant executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies.
In manufacturing, workers change factories frequently, which is another problem, said Sultan.
“Lack of accountability and non-implementation of labour rights are hampering the workers’ rights in the non-RMG sectors,” said Sirajul Islam Roney, president of Bangladesh Garment Workers Employee League.
Nahidul Islam Noyon, secretary of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, said that workers cannot form unions if there are less than 100 workers in a factory.
“In that case we have to form a sectoral union. But it is quite impossible if there are not enough factories of the same category in the area,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.