Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre on Tuesday said many readymade garment factories have not yet implemented the new wage board for workers. The minimum wages for the garment workers, effective from January, have been set at Tk. 5,300. Addressing a press conference at Mukti Bhaban, the trade union alleges many factory owners have resorted to termination of the workers as they demanded news wages. The group’s president Montu Ghosh demanded that the government takes immediate actions for full implementation of the new wage structure in all factories. Rana Plaza Garment Workers’ Union president Imdadul Islam said many survivors and families of the victims are yet to receive compensation from the government or the BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association). He also demanded a list of the workers who are still ‘missing’.
Meanwhile, stressing the importance of maintaining international standard, US Ambassador Dan W Mozena on Tuesday called on the RMG factory owners to reject ‘business as usual’ and lead ‘enthusiastically and creatively’ the transformation of the sector to avert tragedies like Tazreen and Rana Plaza. “I believe business as usual is a recipe for more Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza tragedies, which will destroy the prospects for Bangladesh’s apparel sector in the global marketplace,” he said. The US diplomat was addressing the launching ceremony of a documentary film on the RMG sector, titled ‘It’s not all about the price tag’, at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU). Citing an example, Mozena said early this month at a meeting with government officials some factory owners made clear their opposition to bringing their factories to international standards for worker safety and labor rights, claiming the standard is too high. “To me, the unstated, but the clear message from these owners was that since orders keep coming, since profits keep mounting, why should I incur additional costs in meeting these higher standards … to me, the message seemed to be – let’s go back to business as usual,” he explained. State Minister for Labour and Employment M Mojibul Haque Chunnu spoke as the chief guest at the programme moderated by senior journalist and former Bangladesh Bureau Chief of Associated Press (AP) Farid Hossain. Shirin Akhter, MP, Policy Research Institute (PRI) Executive Director Dr Ahsan H Mansur, BGMEA Vice President Reaz-bin-Mahmud, Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence Director General Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan and momentary producer journalist Mohammad Mufazzal, among others, spoke on the occasion. The US envoy said the secretaries of Commerce, Labour and Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the government, have given good leadership to efforts to bring the sector to international safety and labour standard. “I vigorously applaud this strong government leadership to work with America, the European Union and other international friends of Bangladesh to use the GSP Restoration Action Plan and the Sustainability Compact as roadmaps for transforming the apparel sector so it can grow and prosper,” he said. The envoy also mentioned that Bangladesh has taken some steps following these roadmaps towards the shared goal of securing Bangladesh’s role as a preferred supplier in the global RMG marketplace of securing the shared goal of creating millions more jobs and lifting millions more Bangladeshis out of poverty. Mozena, however, said there are other challenges, too, such as recruiting, training, and deploying large corps of safety and labor inspectors, creating a publicly accessible database that shows inspection results in each factory. He also laid emphasis on reforming and implementing the labour law and making it applicable to the EPZ’s creating conditions in all factories real and responsible unions. Mozena favoured such unions that truly represent the workers and which can take root free of intimidation and recrimination to advance the industry by improving workers’ wellbeing. “I believe Bangladesh will choose and follow the path to transform the apparel sector and bring it to international safety and labour standards,” he said. The US Ambassador hoped that Bangladesh will become a model for other supplier countries to emulate. “I believe Brand Bangladesh will become a Preferred Brand among consumers around the world; I believe Bangladesh can be the number one exporter of apparel in the world.” Mozena highly appreciated the touchy video documentary terming it as significant contributions to the transformation of the RMG sector in Bangladesh. – UNB