Bangladesh: in Search of Solution of Unrest in Garments Industry

Topics: Minimum wage, Wage, Labour relations Pages: 11 (3805 words) Published: September 7, 2011
Bangladesh: In Search of Solution of Unrest in Garments Industry

Introduction :
Bangladesh is an underdeveloped country. Country’s major industry and its main foreign exchange earner sector is Ready Made Garments (RMG) industry. It accounted for about 80% of the total share of exports and earned $12.7 billion in 2008-09. This was about 14 % of the country's GDP. Since 2006 Bangladesh is suffering from The industry owners and political leaders initially tried to sweep the grievance s of labour under the carpet by floating various conspiracy theories. But the problem has refused to die down as its roots lie within the industry and in the exploitation of labour. Garment Industry of Bangladesh

Bangladesh earns nearly $7 billion a year by exporting textile products, mainly to Europe and the United States. This is about 70 percent of total export earnings of the country. The RMG industry has around 4,500 units across the country. The wages of the 4 million RMG workers working in 4,500 factories - 85% are the majority of whom are young, poor and illiterate women - were recently confirmed as remaining the lowest salaries in the world. The factories employ about 40 per cent of the country's industrial workforce. It employs around 2.5 million workers, 90 percent of whom are poor women. Whenever the country is criticized for its high level of corruption and confrontational politics, its garment industry is held up as a success story. Dark Side of the Garment Industry

This most flourishing industry of Bangladesh has its dark side. A large number of the units are located in dilapidated buildings. The industry leaders unite together to get support and benefits from the government, but they are not equally willing to look after the welfare of workers. In the RMG industry in several places in Bangladesh workers are paid their salaries two months late. Overtime is imposed and in some cases not rewarded. The rising inflation has reduced the value of wages. But the industrialists say that it’s the job of the government to control inflation.

7,000 Nasa Group workers began a demonstration inside their factory demanding the new minimum wage of Tk 5,000. Then, leaving the factory, workers from 16 factories blocked a main highway; eventually tens of thousands of workers poured onto the streets and many clashes continued through the morning. Police used baton charges, teargas, water cannon, rubber bullets and shotgun rounds against workers, who replied with volleys of bricks and barricades; 100 were injured, including 20 cops. Workers also damaged over 35 factories, and looted goods worth Tk 12 lakh. Dhaka, capital city - last Friday morning (30th July), the day after the wage announcement ; in the Gulshan, Banani, Kakali, Mahakhali and Tejgaon areas of the city thousands of workers streamed onto the streets and began blockading the main highways with burning tyres. Police responded with teargas, truncheon charges and water cannon (the water is mixed with an indelible dye to aid catching demonstrators). But, heavily outnumbered, the cops could not contain the workers and the protests spread outwards. Making the link between their class status and the contrasting concentrations of wealth in the city landscape, workers were quite specific in their targets; as well as attacking garment factories, 200 businesses were targeted. In an unusual development that shocked many.

The continued labour unrest and disruption in the garment industry - alongside infrastructural problems of energy supply shortages that regularly interrupt maximum productivity - are worrying both foreign buyers and local suppliers. The narrow national economic dependency on a single export industry's ability to deliver competitive rock-bottom prices and reliable fast delivery times means garment workers still have considerable weaknesses to exploit in the class struggle. The government and employers may finally - after years of hinting at it whenever...
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