Living standard of RMG workers should be enhanced
THE workers of readymade garment sector in Bangladesh earn poverty-level wages. Not only that, they continue to work excessively long hours for little money. Whereas, the government and the industry both have failed to protect their interests. A recent study of Fair Labour Association, a US-based workers' rights organization, made the observations about the major export-oriented sector. Its report, 'Toward Fair Compensation in Bangladesh: Insights on Closing the Wage Gap,' found that no one among the garment workers out of more than 6,000 -- whose wages were studied, earns even close to the living wage of Tk 13,620. It said the workers' average wages should be almost 50 per cent higher than the legal minimum wage of Tk 5,300 which is just above the World Bank Poverty Line Tk 6,784.
The FLA survey found that the units set production planning based on assumed overtime while workers earned a lower net wage and worked longer overtime hours. The report said average wages of RMG workers is just above the World Bank Poverty Line but still significantly below all the living wage benchmarks, with workers on average earning Tk 2,507 (around $30) per month more than the legal minimum wage.
Leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, however, said that there was no scope to set more than 60 working hours for the workers . It is common that, factory owners have to face rising costs in the form of energy, finance, and communications prices while on the other side the buyers keep squeezing the prices further downwards. This combination of events can't be a recipe for increasing their real wages. We admit it. There are other problems too. Several factories are ready to go for machine production replacing workers. This will be a serious blow towards our aim of reducing employment in Bangladesh.
We ask the government to do its part by reducing energy prices and strengthening communications infrastructure like roads and ports. On the other hand, the buyers should not have the mindset of squeezing the last cent from the factories while the factory owners can think of improving productivity to reduce costs further.