Leaders of different labour rights groups and professionals promoting labour rights urged the ready-made garment (RMG) worker leaders to take tougher movement to accelerate the formation of trade unions.
Speaking at a discussion titled “Safe Workplace and Labours’ Compensation” in the capital yesterday, they said the market economy never considered labour rights, and there was no alternative to movements as well as the government’s role in securing those rights.
The meeting, moderated by Zakir Hossain, chief executive of Nagorik Uddyog, was jointly organised by Bangladesh Labour Rights Forum and National Forum to Protect Garment Workers and Industry. Professionals such as researchers, lawyers, labour rights activists, etc and RMG leaders attended the event.
“Stronger movement, especially social movement, is mandatory in order to organise trade union for the country’s RMG workers,” said Dr Binayak Sen, research director at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
However, he also urged to take caution while launching such movements so that the interests of the industry stayed unharmed.
“If wrong steps are taken that ultimately cause harm to the RMG industry, Bangladesh will the global market to countries like Vietnam and Cambodia,” he said.
He said there was no specific system to determine how the RMG workers should be compensated, and asked the RMG leaders why they had not gone to the High Court to resolve this matter.
“You have to be aggressive about this. You should push the government and the RMG factory owners to expedite the procedure,” he told the RMG leader present at the event.
Speaking about workplace safety, Dr Binayak said if the owners ensured workers’ safety at the factory buildings, the labour leaders would not have to pressure them into following the National Building Code, as it would be automatically implemented.
Advocate Shaidul Islam, a Supreme Court lawyer and pro-labour rights, there had been several demands of compensation for workers working in hazardous environment in some RMG factories, but the security council, in charge of looking into these matters for the government, had yet to take the demands into account.
“The movement to meet the workers’ demands and ensure workplace safety has started and will continue, and will become tougher if necessary,” he said.
Dr Binayak said several organisations had conducted surveys from time to time in order to estimate the loss suffered by RMG workers due to unsafe work environment and other work-related issues, but none of them could give a solid idea about the workers’ sufferings.
He asked the RMG leaders to conduct a separate survey in order to get accurate data in this regard.
However, Sultan Uddin Ahmed, assistant executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, disagreed with Dr Binayak.
“A new survey is not necessary. All the data from the previously done survey could be consolidated, and that should suffice,” he said.