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RMG factories need more focus on labour rights

Says CPD study report with a special reference to UN guiding principles

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 10 October, 2021 12:00 AM
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RMG factories need more focus on labour rights

Bangladesh garment sector needs more focus on improvement of labour rights and working condition to face the post-LDC graduation challenges, said a study of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, a leading think-tank in the country.

In has to be done in line with The United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs), it said.

The CPD study found that Bangladesh’s overall progress in UNGPs is still below the elementary level—mainly at a “negligible” level.

The study report titled “State of the UNGPs in the RMG Sector of Bangladesh” was revealed on Saturday.

CPD and Christian Aid in Bangladesh also jointly organised a virtual dialogue titled “Building the RMG Sector in Adherence with the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs)” on the occasion of launching of the study report.

“Even though the sector has shown impressive growth during the post-Rana Plaza period, there are a number of social compliance issues that we still need to focus on,” pointed out CPD’s executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun.

The study said basic facilities for workers are yet to be available across the board in all factories.

Disparity in human and labour standards in terms of size, membership and location of factories is well-noticed.

Level of overall improvement is more evident in case of the large- and medium-sized factories compared to thesmall-sized ones.

Verbal harassment is still the top issue for complaints made by the RMG workers.

About 82.6 percent of the surveyed workers complained of verbal harassment, followed by 13.04 percent physical and 7.25 percent sexual complaints.

The majority of workers also complained about inadequate compliance with labour act and labour rules in laying off workers, the report showed.

It also revealed that despite having the presence of a grievance system at the factory level, the majority of the surveyed workers, don’t use the instrument regularly to address their complaints.

Only 12.7 per cent of the workers claimed using the grievance system, said the report.

Some 21.74 percent complaints are related to the extra work, 26.09 percent problems with salaries or overtime payments, while 10.14 percent complaints are about harassment from co-workers.

In most cases, the factory managements reach a solution through negotiation with 86.03 percent verbal warnings, the report disclosed.

In the case of retrenchment, only 6.3 percent of workers mentioned that their factories provided three months' notice before laying off workers, according to the report.

The nationally representative enterprise-level survey was undertaken with a sample of 603 enterprises from Dhaka, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chattogram.

A total of 606 workers across 200 factories were covered in the survey.

It showed that the factories from Dhaka and Gazipur districts have better performance in most human rights aspects than factories from Chattogram and Narayanganj.

Moreover, enterprises under the membership of BGMEA are found in a better state than those under the membership of BKMEA.

“In order to create greater awareness about UNGPs among public agencies, factory management and workers, it is important to undertake special awareness raising and capacity building programmes,” said CPD research director DrKhondaker Golam Moazzem. BGMEA director Haroon Ar Rashid said, “It is a high time that we should address our problems and challenges with transparency.” He identified the labour rights efficiency enhancement as the main challengefor the sector.

Lawyer Sharmin Sultana suggested amendments to the labour laws and rules as well as better functioning of labour courts alongside removal of barriers in the courts for quick disposal of pending cases.

Workers’ leader Babul Aktar alleged that RMG factory “owners have allergy about trade unions even though they pretend to support unions before the media.”

Lawmaker Md Mojibul Haque, also chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Labour and Employment, underscored the need for closing owners-workers gap apart from stepping up inspection and raising awareness.

Labour and Employment Secretary informed that the government has developed a long-term action plan for the improvement of labour laws and labour-related practices not only in the RMG sector but also in other sectors.

CPD’s distinguished fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman moderated the dialogue.