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Friday, January 11, 2019

RMG workers' demands should be taken under consideration

AT LEAST 70 people, including 10 law enforcers, were injured in clashes between police and apparel workers in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, and in Gazipur as the workers continued demonstrations demanding wage hikes for the fourth consecutive day on Wednesday.
Thousands of workers at Ashulia, Gazipur and Uttara, defying calls from the government and labour leaders to resume production, also demonstrated in the labour-intensive industrial belts to press their demand forcing closure of at least 100 units, so far. State Minister for Labour and Employment Monnuzan Sufian at a media briefing at NAM Bhaban on Wednesday called upon the apparel workers to resume production as the government plans to solve the issue of the inconsistency.  
The current situation could have been averted if the RMG worker Suman was not killed allegedly in police firing. In addition there were four bullet hit workers who are currently undergoing treatment. Also many workers claimed that the police raided their houses in Hemayetpur. The security forces could have shown more restraint in handling the situation, even though some police officers were injured in the melees. The time for heavy handed approaches should come to an end and the force could employ more people who are skilled at negotiation and Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR).
But of course the root cause of the problem was the asymmetric wage rise of the RMG workers. It should have been obvious to the government that increasing the minimum wages for RMG workers alone at the expense of the other classes would lead to labour unrest as the higher class of RMG workers would begin to wonder where their faults lay. Such a one sided wage rise has contributed to the current spell of unrest, as the workers decided to wait until after the elections to express their grievances.
If a mistake has been made it must be rectified. If the wages of the upper ranks can be increased without hurting our export competitiveness it must be done without delay. However the increase in wages must not come at the price of rising costs for the RMG owners.