RMG Violence: Who are the invisible players?

By: Mohd Jahangir Alam
Amid recurring violence in the country’s fast-growing export-oriented readymade garment (RMG) industry, intelligence officials say that some vested quarters, both local and foreign, have long been involved in the dirty game.

The intelligence officials have identified five broad categories of vested quarters as playing a role in destabilising the country’s highest foreign currency-earning sector.

They said the first category of the troublemakers is some foreigners based in India and China and their local collaborators like NGOs and businesspeople.

The foreigners, the intelligence officials said, carry out their activities through NGOs under the cover of promoting human rights and providing training to Bangladeshi workers in the name of their skill development.

“These foreign quarters find Bangladesh a tough competitor in their business in the international market due to cheap labour in Bangladesh,” one intelligence official said.

They think the abolishing of quota regime followed by the emergence of Bangladesh as a competitor is a major problem for them. They say the labour laws in Bangladesh are not as stringent as these should have been. The salaries paid to the workers are also very low.

The intelligent sources said another group of behind-the-scene players is local union leaders. They, in fact, draw their wages without working and avail of undue facilities from the garment factory owners serving their vested interests.

“Yet another vested group is local elected public representatives. This group remote-controls many things. They exert their influence on garment factory owners in many ways and receive a particular amount of money from the owners every month in the name of ensuring a stable working atmosphere in their factories. Besides, this political group has their own sycophants for whom they manage Jhut (scrap clothes) business.

“And the problem breaks out when this equation between the owners and the political leaders collapses,” said one of the intelligence officials.

Another reason identified by the intelligence behind the frequent RMG sector violence is unhealthy competition among the garment owners.

According to the intelligence officials, there is a group of garment factory owners who instigate trouble in the factories of their ‘rivals’ with an ill-motive to hire the efficient workers of that particular factory to improve their own productivity.

There are even some garment owners who get foreign orders for six months and make enough money during this period and simply sit idle during the rest six months of the year. “Therefore, they look for an excuse to create a trouble and thus shut down the factory for six months. They take initiatives to reopen the factory only when they get a fresh order,” said an intelligence official.

Amid violence by workers in the Ashulia RMG belt for the fourth straight day on Thursday, leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) threatened to close down all the industrial units in Ashulia if the ongoing unrest cannot be contained by Sunday.

“We’ll be watching the situation in Ashulia on Saturday and Sunday… if it continues, we’ll shut down the factories,” BGMEA president M Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin told reporters during a briefing.

Besides, US Ambassador in Dhaka Dan W Mozena has warned that Bangladesh’s readymade garment industry is facing a possible storm stemming from recent unrest in the sector.

Many US buyers have already expressed concern for the reputation of their brands, as Bangladesh is a massive supplier of apparel items to the US, he said.

“I’ve been contacted by a huge number of US buyers who expressed concerns over the reputation of the garment products of Bangladesh,” Mozena told reporters after a meeting with Finance Minister AMA Muhith at the Ministry on June 11.

Source: UNB Connect
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