New wages trigger RMG jobs at stake

Fall in export orders due to political unrest also keeps owners from new intake
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Bangladesh’s apparel makers have almost suspended recruiting workers as the sector is passing through a dual challenge of perpetual political unrest and implementation of new wage structure.

Industry insiders said implementation of increased wages from this December will lead to rise in production cost while the decline of export orders due to supply chain disruption in blockades would shrink the business.

In these circumstances, the apparel makers are now unwilling to recruit workers. Some even say the factories might have to axe jobs from the existing pool of workers.

The repeated workers’ unrests have also taken a heavy toll on the country’s largest export earing sector, according to them.

Thousands already have become unemployed following the factory accidents, including Tazreen Fashion fire and Rana Plaza collapse.

“RMG factory owners have stopped recruiting workers as orders from buyers have dropped due to political unrest,” said Reaz Bin Mahmood, vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

“Implementation of new wage structure also poses a challenge,” he added. The new wage structure is effective from this December and thus the workers will start getting increased wages from January.

Reaz Bin Mahmood said the small and medium size RMG investors will start to feel the pinch from January as payment of increased wages begins from that month. “Some may have no other option but to shut down their factories,” he feared.

BGMEA’s labour department sources said the RMG owners in Savar-Ashulia zone have suspended recruitment of workers for the past six months as they were affected by labour and political unrests.

According to an executive in the department, factories of that areas have cut operation by 5-10 lines as they are facing a setback in orders from buyers.

“We are not recruiting workers currently as growth has slowed down due to fall of long term and bulky export orders,” said Syed Sadek Ahmed, managing director of Space Sweater Ltd.

“Owners are also not interested in recruitment as there is a fear among them that miscreants may enter factories in the guise of workers.”

Some factory owners have opted for avoiding recruitment of male workers after violent labour unrest.

Former BGMEA President Abdus Salam Murshedy said they would introduce “production engineering” to cut expenditures behind recruiting workers.

According to him, the government has a role to play in improving the country’s RMG sector and thus avoid unemployment of workers.

“The apparel makers should be given incentives by the government,” he suggested.

Knitwear manufacturers also stayed away from new recruitments of the workers due to the same reasons.

“We are not appointing workers, rather trying to cut jobs to adjust new wage structure,” said Mohammad Hatem, first vice president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).

“Wages increase while production drops. This is a challenging situation for us. In this situation, we won’t appoint entry-level workers.”

Losing jobs, many workers are now passing hard days as they have not found new sources of income yet.

“I lost my job three months ago and yet to find another job for my survival,” said Suman, a former operator of Sinha Group. There are allegations by the workers’ leaders that some of the factories are intentionally firing workers, particularly those who are involved with trade unions.

“They are sacking workers in the name of new wage adjustment,” said Sirajul Islam Rony, president of Bangladesh National Garments Workers Employees League.

“Hartals and blockades are also responsible for the situation,” he added.

According to BGMEA, around 44 lakh workers are employed in the country’s readymade garment sector – 80% are women especially from the rural areas.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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