Labour rights in the readymade garments industry in Bangladesh

Since May 2006, the RMG industry of Bangladesh has been experiencing various workers unrest which turned into violent incidents in 2008, causing violations of the prevalent emergency situation which even the major political parties did not dare to do. In this background, Odhikar, with support from OXFAM Great Britain, embarked on an initiative of advocacy to promote the rights of the readymade garments (RMG) workers as well as to protect the interests of the sector from a pro-poor perspective.

The identified key reason for the RMG workers’ resentment is the rapid price hike of daily essentials and the workers’ inability to cope with it. Most of the RMG workers are not fully aware of their legal rights and entitlements. Occupational health and safety is a major concern for them. Female workers are a majority in the RGM industry and become victims of various kinds of violence, including sexual harassment. Although statistics from government departments indicate improvement in working environment and workers’ rights industry, survey findings and focus group discussions do not corroborate that fact.

Absence of trade unions in the RMG industry is a major concern. NO formal communication or dispute settlement mechanism exists between the workers and the owners of the RMG factories. Extreme sense of deprivation or suffering causes the workers to adopt violent means for expressing their frustration.

In order to thrive, the industry will need to ensure regular orders from international buyers. These buyers are primarily interested in three factors: price, lead time, and quality. Bangladesh will have to improve its competitiveness to remain on the map of buyers, since it is also expected that buyers will consolidate sourcing and concentrate on a few countries than during the quota period.

Labour rights garments-Publication-2008 (full text in English, PDF)


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