• Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
  • Last Update : 01:04 pm

Owners want to see workers as trade union leaders

  • Published at 06:45 pm August 16th, 2014

24 victims of Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions disasters to get PMO financial assistance soon

Workers received assistance only, not compensation

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RMG owners have claimed that they are keen to allow the formation of trade unions in their factories to resolve different crises between the workers and the owners, but they want to put some conditions before approving such organisations.

Leaders of garment exporters, who earlier had opposed the trade union perception, yesterday said they had no problem with those unions if the leaders were selected from among the workers of the same factory.

“We are not against formation of trade unions, but it needs to be finalised first who will be the leaders of such unions – an educated person or a worker from my factory,” Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association Director Syed Nurul Islam said.

“A person, who completed studies in economics at Dhaka University or Jahangirnagar University, cannot be the leader of a trade union in my factory. I will only allow a trade union if the leader comes from within my workers,” said Nurul, also chief executive officer of Well Group.

He made the statement while addressing at a roundtable on the current status of apparel industry, organised by Nijera Kori at Cirdap auditorium in the capital.

Echoing Nurul, BGMEA Vice-President Shahidullah Azim said: “The factory owners do not have any problem with the trade unions. If the workers continue their production properly, there should not be any problems to ensure their rights and responsibilities under trade unions.”

They made the observations responding to the claim made by different quarters that the owners do not want any trade union in the factories.

Other speakers including researchers, trade union leaders and activists recommended that the trade unions were necessary to improve relationship between the owners and the workers, and to resolve disputes, if any. They observed that lack of good relationship between the two key players of the sector had created gaps and crises.

The government in July last year allowed the garment workers to form trade unions without prior permission from the factory owners, a major concession to campaigners lobbying for widespread reforms to the industry following the world’s worst industrial accident in the history of garments industry at Rana Plaza, which killed more than 1,130 people.

BGMEA Vice-President and Sterling Group Chairman Siddiqur Rahman asked people interested to form trade unions to sit and discuss with the owners and resolve problems of the workers.

Naznin Shefa, member of the country’s anthropologists’ platform “Activist Nribiggani,” said the history of trade union had changed over time.

“The recent rise in the number of trade unions raises question about who they actually serve – governments, owners, workers or the international donor agencies? This needs to be looked into properly,” she said.

There were only around 50 trade unions related to the garments sector three years back, but now there are around 300.

“We need to closely monitor the reasons behind such an increase. Now, many of the trade unions are being formed by the BGMEA. It is a matter of question whether those are constituted to serve the workers. It needs to be checked.”

According to the Labour Ministry, the government gave registration to 203 trade unions since last year.

Garment Sramik Trade Union Kendra Joint General Secretary Joly Talukder claimed that the owners had not been allowing the workers to form trade unions if the chosen leaders were not favourable for them.

“Activist Nribiggani” member Saydia Gulrukh also claimed that many of the factory owners were patronising goons while a number of the owners are parliament members. “Thus, no long-term solution can be reached if this nexus cannot be changed.”

Labour Ministry Joint Secretary Md Faizur Rahman said: “If any trade union leader feels any pressure or problems from the owners’ side, the person can inform it to the Labour Department for action.”

Assistance, not compensation

Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua claimed that none of the workers from Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions had received any compensation.

“All they received is financial assistance or donations as per the government documents. Should we continue the rehabilitation activities using only the donations after a disaster occurs?” he asked.

Saydia Gulrukh said the International Labour Organisation did not have any structure for distribution of compensation. “The government finalises compensation amount considering the aspects of the accidents. But it should change.

“Most of the factories do not maintain service book and registrar book as per the law. Because of this, we cannot find the actual list of people working in the factories,” she said while requesting the owners to maintain the documents properly.

BGMEA President Atiqul Islam said the association had paid Tk14.5crore as financial assistance, including Tk7.5crore as salaries, to the Rana Plaza victims.

“Though the BGMEA does not have any disaster management fund, it had to pay money to the workers during emergencies,” he added.

Joint Secretary Faizur Rahman said the compensation rate would be finalised upon completion of the cases filed against the owners to realise compensation or over the accidents.

24 victims to get PMO fund

The Labour Ministry official also said the families of 10 victims of Tazreen Fashions’ fire and 14 of the Rana Plaza collapse would get money from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund soon.

Regarding the unidentified bodies of 80 workers of Rana Plaza buried in Jurain graveyard, he said: “The government may call the relatives of these victims again to collect DNA samples to identify the bodies. In addition, the government will take help of the intelligence agencies to confirm identities of the missing workers.”