“Social Protection of Garment Workers in Bangladesh”

“Social Protection of Garment Workers in Bangladesh”

Where is the government’s difficulty in introducing a rationing system for garment workers?

I do not understand the matter – Rashed Khan Menon

“Social Protection of Garment Workers in Bangladesh”

Round table discussion

Where is the government’s difficulty in introducing a rationing system for garment workers? Minister Rashed Khan Menon MP has raised the question saying that I do not understand the matter. He said, where is the government’s difficulty in introducing a rationing system for garment workers, the main driving force of the country’s economy, in a country where metro rail can be launched, Karnaphuli tunnel can be built? Referring to the public private discrimination in the matter of maternity leave, he said it is a clear violation of the holy constitution of Bangladesh. He also said that it is the moral responsibility of the government to establish schools for the education of children of garment workers. He further said that the reluctance of the government to start industrial area-based hospitals, including specialized hospitals for garment workers, where all the mega projects could be done at the expense of thousands of crores of rupees, he said. It is not only sad but shameful that provident fund for garment workers has not been started for 4 long decades. (Rashed Khan Menon MP Former Minister of Ministry of Social Welfare and currently Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Ministry of Social Welfare) He said this in a round table discussion on “Social Protection of Garment in Bangladesh Workers” organized by the National Garment Workers Federation. Today, December 31, 2022, Saturday, at 11.00 am, a discussion meeting was held at Dhaka Reporters Unity (Nazrul Hamid Auditorium), Dhaka.

It was presided over by the president of the national federation, Mr. Amirul Haque Amin.

Lutfunnesa Khan Beauty MP said in the discussion meeting, it is important to ensure separate transport system for women workers of garments. She demanded an end to all forms of harassment of women garment workers. At the same time, she strongly criticized the discrimination of women workers. (Luthfunnesa Khan Beauty MP Member of Parliamentary Committee on Ministry of Women and Child Welfare Affairs).

Mr. Haroon-Or-Rashid, Director, BGMEA (Ex-Vice-President) said that the wages of garment workers should be fixed keeping in mind whether their children can get education, medical care, enough to live on. Garment workers are assured of ease of connection with all activities including wage determination, maternity benefits, medical facilities, transport arrangements under social security.

Mr. Fazle Shamim Ehsan, 2nd Vice President, BKMEA, said that he called on all concerned to start rationing system for garment workers in a quick time by looking at the rise in commodity prices, price inflation, gas-electricity-water price increase, travel scaffolding-medical expenses.

Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, Regional Office, ILO said this is an important issue. On the other hand, this event is a big gathering of all those who work with the workers. Representatives of important organizations of the garment sector, representatives of SCOP, G-SCOP, NCCW, workers and representatives of most of the organizations supporting the movement are present here. Apart from researchers, leaders of working people are also present here. Also present are the former ministers of the two main ministries concerned with the issue and the present president and members of the parliamentary committee. So this excellent forum needs to be taken forward and I think it is possible to bring out some recommendations from this forum and collect them from the states, governments and owners.

Dr. Hayatun Nabi, Professor, North South University (Public Health) said that the issue of social security is mainly created around the workers. After the industrial revolution in England, when people came from the countryside to the cities and started working in factories, the question of housing, medical care, education of their children and the protection and improvement of the quality of life of these people arose. It becomes essential not only for the interests of the workers but also for the needs of production and capital. Social protection of garment industry workers for Bangladesh should have been addressed long ago, belatedly it is imperative today.

Mr. Naimul Ahsan Jewell, one of the central leaders, Scope and G-Scope said that the garment industry is the main industry of Bangladesh. Bangladesh stands on this industry, from underdeveloped to middle income country and dreaming of moving from there to developed country. But workers in this industry are still not guaranteed social security, which is unfortunate. Immediate implementation of social security proposals is required.

Mr. Shakeel Akhtar Chowdhury, Member Secretary, NCCW, said that if the list of demands and problems of garment workers is made, it will cross dozens. Among these, social protection is essential to protect and improve the quality of life of workers – something that governments and employers need to address urgently.

Mr. Z M Kamrul Anam, President, Bangladesh Textile and Garment Industry Workers League said, First of all, I thank the National Garment Workers Federation for bringing forward the issue of social security of garment workers. The main goal of the SDGs is that no one will be left behind. Why is there no social security for garment workers? This is the question we have today.

Mr. Tawhidur Rahman, President, Bangladesh Garment Workers Federation said this is an important and timely issue. On behalf of my federation and the garment workers, I thank the National Garment Workers Federation for bringing this issue forward. From the 27 December 1990 fire incident at Saraka Garments in which 27 workers were killed, the issue of safety and security of garment workers came to the fore with the protest of 1138 workers at Rana Plaza on 24 April 2013. Regrettably, social security of garment workers has not been ensured till date. This is very important.

China Rahman, General Secretary, Federation of Garment Workers said, the issue of social security of garment workers has been pointed in our eyes more and more during Covid-19. We have realized how helpless workers and industry are without social security for workers. This issue needs to be resolved in the interest of workers and industry.

Abir Bin Amin (ETI) – United Kingdom said, regarding the social security of garment workers, the recommendations from the garment workers and labor organizations are important and I urge the concerned to act. I urge you to give importance to making labor-related government departments worker-friendly.

Zakia Sultana (3F), Trade Union Federation-Denmark, cites an incident in the Ashulia industrial area where workers are struggling to make ends meet due to reduced wages and overtime, selling tea, pies after the factory closes. Selling, drinking and selling cigarettes and many earn a living by driving rickshaws. They are not able to support their family with the wages they currently get. Therefore, to ensure social security, workers must be guaranteed a living wage.

Arundhati Rani (Union to Union) – Trade Union Federation-Sweden said, we are concerned from the standpoint of garment workers social protection can be ensured only if they are aware of the sense of responsibility.

Shahinur (FNV) Trade Union Federation-Netherlands said, We compare our country with other countries of the world in terms of development. But if we can introduce social security act and pension cream in our neighboring country Nepal, why can’t we? If we can ensure these two benefits, we can ensure the social security of garment workers and other workers.

Rafiqul Islam Mukul (Industriall) – Switzerland said that the state must fulfill the main responsibility to ensure the social security of the garment workers, at the same time, the industrial owners and the brands/buyers who purchase goods from the industry must come forward and ensure the social security of the garment workers through joint cooperation.

Rezyanul Haque Azam (Bills) Research Institute-Bangladesh said, from today’s discussion meeting to implement the social protection of garment workers, we are ready to do all the cooperation if we can implement all the activities related to social protection and Bils.

Kishore Roy, Convenor, Workers Party of Bangladesh (Dhaka South) said, Workers Party of Bangladesh is a working class party, our party has full support for the demand of social security period of garment workers.

Murshida Akhter Nahar, General Secretary, National Domestic Workers Union said, “The demand for ensuring social security of the garment workers is a very reasonable demand, we are on your side on behalf of the domestic women workers and we will be on your side until the demand is confirmed.”

Zakir Hossain Raju, General Secretary, Bangladesh Farm Labor Union said, thanking the National Garment Workers Federation for bringing the issue of social security of garment workers to the fore, I promise to support the movement in the future with this demand.

Present were: Mr. Salauddin Swapan, President, Bangladesh Revolutionary Garments Workers Federation * Mr. Babul Akhtar, General Secretary, Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Federation * Mr. Kamrul Hasan, General Secretary, Ekta Garments Workers Federation.

Discussion moderated by: Rafiqul Islam Rafiq, General Secretary, National Garments Workers Federation.

Post : Riyad Hossain, Dhaka, Bangladesh