Nearly half of the tannery workers do not have any proof of employment, but the situation has improved a lot in the apparel sector over the last four decades, according to a new study.
Also, apparel workers enjoy more benefits compared to the people in the tannery sector thanks to the presence of a work environment with comparatively higher compliance, it said.
Around 28-36 percent of the apparel workers are still deprived of any appointment letter whereas nearly 20 percent of the tannery workers have signed contracts while 45 percent of them do not have the proof of employment.
Around 72 percent to 84 percent garment workers have identity cards while the number is very negligible in the tannery sector, the study also said.
However, dismissal of workers without notice is quite common in both the sectors, the study said.
Jakir Hossain and Mostafiz Ahmed, two researchers, shared the findings of their study titled “Worker rights situation and gaps in RMG and tannery sectors: evidences from law and research” at a seminar held at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka yesterday.
Most of the time, non-compliant factories violate labour rights in the garment sector. Some 20 percent to 40 percent tanneries—especially small and sub-contracting ones—still employ workers under 18 years of age.
In the garment sector, wage discrimination is not significant, but there is discrimination against women in case of access to higher posts.
Often young and good looking women workers reportedly are the beneficiaries in many cases. Women are forced to do more overtime than men but the former group gets less overtime allowance than the latter.
On the other hand, gender-based wage discrimination was reported and discrimination in upper position in the tannery sector is almost absent. There is a strong preference for men workers in upper position, according to the study.
Monjurul Hoque, a union leader of the tannery sector, said some tanneries have not been paying salary even for 10 months in an excuse of production loss and relocation of the factories from Hazaribagh to Savar.
The workers of the tannery sector are always neglected, he said, adding many workers have been passing very hard days due to arrears in the sector.
Saleha Islam Shanta, president of Motherland Garments Workers Federation, a rights group of garment workers, said many factories have been delaying the payment of salaries to the workers after the implementation of the new wage structure.
Many small and medium garment factory owners have to close their units due to their inability to remain competitive under the new wage structure, she said.
As a result, many fresh garment workers are not receiving the minimum wage under the recommended structure. They are receiving a monthly wage as low as Tk 3,000, she claimed.
Moreover, a section of mid-level officers of some garment factories hurl abusive words at female workers and even go for sexual harassment.
If a female worker protests such kind of attitude, she is either terminated or faces a reverse complaint, Shanta said.
Rehana Akter Ruma, additional secretary to the Bangladesh Tanners Association, said last week some international communities have visited the tanneries and they may declare the sector free of child labour very soon.
Hameeda Hossain, a Bangladeshi human rights activist, said most of the workers cannot enjoy their legal job benefits due to a lack of awareness on their rights.
However, a lot of changes have taken place in the country’s garment sector over the last four decades as many women are also becoming the union leaders.
She said the owners’ interests have been prioritised in the labour law of Bangladesh.
The amount of money that was paid to the Rana Plaza victims was not legal compensation, it was in fact donation, she said.
A compensation of Tk 2 lakh in case of an industrial accident is very poor, she said.