Half-baked steps keep RMG sector restive
The government-backed crisis management committees can hardly contribute to reining in violence in the garment sector due to a lack of cooperation among the local lawmakers, garment owners and administrations.
The crisis management committees convene a meeting only when there is an incident of violence although they were supposed to sit every month to discuss the sector.
The labour and employment ministry formed a central crisis management committee and five zonal committees in June 2010 to resolve any crisis in the sector.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Munnojan Sufian leads the central crisis management committee, while the local lawmakers were made the heads of the zonal committees.
Previously, there were several zonal committees, and the additional deputy commissioners of the respective districts were the heads and the local lawmakers the advisers to the committees.
But, later the government formed the permanent crisis management committees centrally and regionally to prevent any recurrence of violence in the sector.
Currently the heads of five zonal committees are lawmakers Abdullah-al Kaiser Hasnat (for Narayanganj Sadar, Bandar and Sonargaon), Gulam Dastagir Gazi (for Rupganj and Araihazar) and Talukdar Md Towhid Jung Murad (for Ashulia and Savar area).
Lawmaker AKM Mozammel Haque was assigned for Gazipur district and lawmaker Zahid Ahsan Russell was made his deputy for the Gazipur zonal committee.
Lawmaker Kamal Ahmed Majumder was made the head for Dhaka metropolitan area, while lawmaker Asalmul Haque was his deputy.
Apart from the lawmakers, the officials of local administrations, and owners and workers' leaders are the members of the zonal committees.
Mikail Shipar, acting secretary to the labour and employment ministry, said the members of the zonal committees were supposed to meet once a month, but that could not happen as the lawmakers were busy.
As a result, the meetings take place only when a crisis breaks out in the industrial units, he said.
But, after the recent labour unrest in some garment factories in Ashulia, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed the ministry to revive the zonal committees to resolve any crisis in the industrial areas, said the official.
“However, we will convene the tripartite meeting of the owners, government officials and workers' leaders within the 15th of this month to find out the reasons of unrest in the garment sector."
"We will also take actions in line with the findings of the meeting as the recent unrest was not related to the wage hike issues only,” the secretary said.
He also refuted the claim that the crisis management committees are not playing their due role.
The problem is that the assigned lawmakers remain busy with other problems, he added.
"As a result, the committees meet only in the wake of any unrest."
When asked, Talukdar Md Towhid Jung Murad said it is true that the zonal committees were supposed to call a meeting at the end of every month.
But the meeting does not take place as everybody cannot attend the meeting for different reasons, he said.
“Most of the incidents of labour unrest were due to a distance in relationship among the owners, managements and workers. The role of the local lawmakers is like mediators,” he said.
“However, I will sit in a meeting with the owners of the garment factories in Ashulia and Savar areas on July 27 or 28,” Murad said.
The garment owners and the leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) should also push for holding such meetings regularly.
“I agree that there is a lack of cooperation among the stakeholders of the committees. I want to hold regular meetings because most of the unrest takes place in my areas,” Murad said.
BGMEA President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said: “We are working to reactivate the zonal committees. If the committees can work properly, I hope a lot of problems would be resolved.” “We need cooperation from all to end any crisis,” he added.