Published: Monday, May 6, 2013

Tragedy-Hit Garment

EU warns, again

BGMEA proposes wage board for workers; PM backs

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association stand in silence for a minute to mourn the victims of the Savar tragedy, at a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Dhaka yesterday. Photo: BSS

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association stand in silence for a minute to mourn the victims of the Savar tragedy, at a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Dhaka yesterday. Photo: BSS

Garment makers yesterday proposed forming a wage board to review the wages of workers as the European Union warned of suspending preferential trade access for Bangladesh if it did not take immediate steps to improve labour standards.
“The wages of the garment workers should increase every year at a certain percentage rationally to better their living standards,” said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) after a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office in Dhaka.
He said the garment makers increase the wages of workers every year but the hikes are not the same at all the factories across the country.
“Through a wage board, the annual pay rise can be implemented nationally,” he told The Daily Star.
The prime minister backed the proposal and urged the BGMEA leaders to develop an institutional mechanism to hike the salaries of garment workers every year to help them maintain a decent life, according to PM’s Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad.
The country’s garment workers, mostly women from rural villages, are some of the lowest paid in the world, with monthly minimum wages of a mere Tk 3,000.
Their last increase in wage came in November 2010. Workers’ bodies and some international buyers have recently called for another review as their living standards came under pressure due to stubbornly high inflation.
Meanwhile, Europe’s top trade official has warned that the EU would consider suspending Bangladesh’s duty-free access to its market if the country does not take immediate steps to improve its labour standards and factory conditions.
“The government of Bangladesh must change something. Otherwise, I am ready to launch an investigation, which may lead to the suspension of Bangladesh’s trade status with the EU,” said European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.
This is the first time the EU has threatened to take action against Bangladesh within the context of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which allows 48 of the world’s poorest nations unlimited exports of anything but arms.
“I have been very clear. They must deal with this and do so in a very clear and immediate timetable,” De Gucht told the Belgian media outlets RTBF and Le Soir yesterday.
The EU official’s comments came as Bangladesh still struggles to clear debris from the collapse of a nine-storey unauthorised building in Savar and pull out people still believed to be trapped.
The disaster, the worst of its kind in the country’s history, killed more than 600 people, exposing the high-risk environment and lack of safety regulations in the sector.
“Now we see that…these people are, well, we can’t say underpaid, they are virtually unpaid and above all, they have to work in sanitary and security conditions that are totally unacceptable: it’s some kind of modern slavery,” De Gucht said.
“These people have the right to work in acceptable conditions, and we have a duty to push for that.”
The EU is Bangladesh’s top trading partner, accounting for about 60 percent of its exports.

  • A A Mobin

    Not only take steps about health and safety system but also Gov.must need to set a standard wages for these labour which comply with todays economy and enforce law in terms of monitor it.Gov should start using pay slips system in BD and all the wages will go to individual’s bank account,so no one can misuse wages sector.No body should allow to work more than 8 hours a day/39 hours a week. Shfit can divided among the employees.

  • A A Mobin

    Agree with you.