Leaders of the apparel sector’s trade bodies on Friday rejected the Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report on trade union status in the local garments industry. They labelled the report ‘bias and politically motivated,’ just to tarnish image of the industry abroad.
The HRW on Thursday in a report alleged that local factory owners use beatings, threats to kill to stop labor organizers.
It also urged the government to stop garment factory owners from intimidating and threatening workers for organizing trade unions, and prosecute those responsible for attacks on labor leaders.
Vice-president of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) SM Mannan (Kochi) told The New Nation yesterday that HRW’s report is very much intentional and being carried out as part of ongoing negative campaign against the industry.
The report, in my mind, is pre-mediated as the overall situation about trade unionism and labour rights in the apparel industry is absent in it, he added.
The BGMEA leader said by publishing the report, the HRW has tried to serve interest of our competitors, besides, tarnish image of the industry abroad.
He said, BGMEA as the apex trade body of the garment industry is very much interested of allowing trade union at the its member factories. “We are working on it and have already covered many factories to ensure labour rights. Process is under way to set up bodies of trade union in others factories as per our labour law,” he added.
Rejecting HRW’s claim that the factory owners use beatings, threats to kill to stop labor organizers, SM Mannan (Kochi) said, their claim is baseless and none of the owner is involve in this process.
He also said that all the garments owners, workers and labour leaders are working together for the development of the industry as well establishing the rights of the apparel workers.
“The report is not realistic, we are allowing the workers to form trade unions in their respective factories,” said former BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedy.
He also claimed that trade unions are in practiced informally in most garment factories in the form of workers participation or welfare committees and process is underway to set up full fledged trade unions.
When asked, the former BGMEA leader said, the report of HRW is not ‘realistic’ and did not focus the overall picture of the industry.
When the industry is passing through various challenges such as wage hike, political turmoil, compliance issue, image crisis and infrastructure bottleneck, the report of HRW would further aggravate the industry’s condition by wreaking buyer’s confidence, he apprehends.
He further said, it may create confusion among the global buyers who remained shaky to do business with local manufacturers in the wake of political turmoil.
Terming the HRW report as ‘baseless’, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufactures and Exporters Association (BKMEA) president AKM Salim Osman told The New Nation on Friday afternoon, that this sort of organization is trying to create another unstable situation in RMG sector.
“We cannot expect such a baseless report from a global human rights group as it could bring huge negative impact on the country’s largest export sector,” he added.
BKMEA always welcome trade union in garment factories. But the reality is forproper time to set up trade union in all factories. Even, the workers are not interested to form trade union, as they want now to more friendly working atmosphere in factories to earn more, he added.
He also denied the allegation made by the HRW that factory owners are threatening any workers to set up trade unions.
Osman also claimed that the HRW report didn’t mean the real picture of the industry.
Former labour minister Engr Khondker Mosharraf Hossain said, the report of the global right group did not reflect the overall scenario of the industry. It is incomplete, he said.
“The present government did a lot to put into practice the trade union in the garments industry and brought necessity changes in the labour law to establish rights of the workers in the industry,” he mentioned.
He added: We have to do more and keep on working on the issue with ILO and other stakeholders of the industry.
The former labour minister said, we agreed to open trade union in the sector and accordingly amended the labour law. But, the issue is so sensitive that it could not be implemented overnight in all the factories. If we take the move to implement it immediately it will bring disaster to the industry, he opined.
“It would take time to implement trade union rights in the factories. And before implementing the trade union, all the stakeholders have to sit for series of meetings and discussions to settle down the issue, he added.
The former labour minister, however, expressed the hope that once a sound and effective trade union is implemented in the sector, it will bring good for both industry owners and the workers.