Don’t create unrest in RMG at NGOs’ behest: Minister

Labour and Employment Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain Thursday said there must be trade unionism in the garments sector to protect workers’ interest.

The minister also urged the RMG workers not to create unrest in the sector ‘as per NGOs command’ as they (NGOs) did not have the authority to fix wages for them.

“The owners think that trade union is a ‘cobra’ which will destroy them and the workers think it cannot protect their interest,” the labour minister said.

The minister was speaking as the chief guest at the foundation laying ceremony of a chemical and dye testing laboratory at the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association (BGMEA) Bhaban in the city.

He said trade union must be allowed in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector to better address the labour rights issues, adding “neither the owners of the factories nor the workers properly understand the function and objective of trade unions”.

He said both the owners and the workers will come under the same law and will perform better if trade unions are there as this will make them more dutiful and create obligations to protect each others right”.

The minister mentioned that recently he had talks with the ILO representatives who would soon visit Bangladesh to observe the situation.

Several ministers of the present Awami League-led government and many economists are supporting trade unionism in the RMG sector.

The minister alleged that some non-government organisations (NGOs) were involved in the latest labour unrest in the readymade garment sector.

“Do not create havoc on roads as per the NGOs command by destroying public property and bringing general public life to standstill. There may be people who urgently need to go to hospital but become helpless when you are engaged in such destruction,” said the minister.

The minister said the NGOs that are instigating unrest in the name of protecting workers’ interest by leading movement for minimum wages do not have any authority to fix workers’ minimum wages.

“It is the government, the owners of the factories and the workers themselves who will decide what will be the minimum wage, and not them (NGOs). We even do not want to sit with them,” he said.

He said the new wage structures for RMG workers, announced on July 29, will come into effect from November 1 in any circumstances.

Israfil Alam, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on Ministry of Labour and Employment, Arturo Manuel Perez Martinez, Ambassador of Spain in Bangladesh, Antonio Abril Abadin, general counsel and secretary of the board of Inditex, Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of the BGMEA, and Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, vice-president of the BGMEA, spoke, among others, on the occasion.

Abdus Salam Murshedy said the BGMEA is going to have an international standard laboratory for dye and chemical testing with support of Spanish garments giant Inditex.

“Through this laboratory we will be able to save the cost of testing dyes and chemicals of export items and will spend five per cent of the earning from this laboratory for workers’ welfare,” said Salam Murshedy.

On the occasion, the BGMEA and the Inditex officials also distributed 20 group insurance cheques to the heir of the deceased garment workers of Spectrum Sweater Industries Ltd, stipend to 92 meritorious children of garment workers and certificates to 116 skilled workers.

UNB adds: Abdus Salam Murshedi sought cooperation from all especially from buyers in improving living standard of the workers. “Apart from the owners, the buyers have equal responsibility to ensure better lifestyle of workers.”

Antonio Abril said: “Our company is really proud of contributing to Bangladesh’s RMG sector…we’ve firm commitment to this country for its economic development.”

Arturo Manuel Perez Martinze said: “We’ve been in close cooperation with Bangladesh and this cooperation will continue in the years to come.”

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