The comments were made at a roundtable discussion titled "Operationalizing Labour Law and Policy" organized by ActionAid Bangladesh at a Dhaka hote
For ensuring workers’ rights and improving the working conditions, it is necessary to devise a way forward collectively to address the gaps in legal framework and operationalize the labour law, speakers said at a discussion on Sunday.
The comments were made at a roundtable discussion titled "Operationalizing Labour Law and Policy" organized by ActionAid Bangladesh at a Dhaka hotel.
In a keynote presentation, Nuzhat Jebin, manager of ActionAid Bangladesh, said in recent years the number of female workers in this sector declined from 60% to 46.18%, according to a survey of Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 2019.
The reasons cited for this decline were due to increasing use of technology, lack of skills of women workers compared to males, increasing interest of men for salary rise, social inequalities and due to its labor-intensive nature.
Mujibul Haque, MP and president of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Labour and Employment, said lack of developments regarding ensuring labour rights by the High Court still remains in the dark among workers themselves.
"Men need to get out of the mindset of oppressing women, only enacting a law will not prevent this mentality," he added.
Shirin Akter, MP of Feni 3 constituency and chief guest at the discussion, said both owners and workers needed to be more aware about preventing sexual and other types of harassment at work.
"Owners need to come forward to implement ILO Convention 190, while it is our collective duty to form committees in all factories against women abuse. Only then can we prevent harassment and abuse at RMG workplaces," she added.
Abul Kalam Azad, president of Tannery Workers' Union, said the leather and tannery industries have been limping for a long time now. "Expansion while upholding workers' rights has become difficult as owners are still recruiting them at the lowest possible wages, let alone look after their welfare."
Rezwan Selim, director of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said production at RMG factories stumble every now and then due to women workers experiencing abuse and harassment at work."
Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, said the apparel industry is a key driver of the Bangladesh economy in terms of employment generation and export earnings.
But gender-based harassment and abuse still prevails at factories, she added.
An ActionAid study in 2019 showed that 80% garments workers experienced or witnessed sexual violence or harassment a work.
On the other hand, 90% workers of the tannery industries at Hazaribagh in the capital have been exposed to hazardous chemicals and often put at risk of on-job accidents, leaving them partially or completely disabled.
In addition, most workers in leather and tannery industry suffer from extreme health hazards due to unsafe working conditions. About 61% workers are facing a health and safety crisis, according to the Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation.