Garment makers see 'conspiracy' | The Daily Star
12:51 AM, September 25, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:09 AM, September 25, 2013

Garment makers see 'conspiracy'

The BGMEA yesterday described the local and international media reports on minimum wages and working hours as a “conspiracy” against the highest export earner of the country.
“A conspiracy has begun at local and international levels to destabilise the industry at a time when negotiation is going on to fix the minimum wage for the garment workers,” said SM Mannan, acting president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
“As part of this plot, these motivated, false and misleading news reports are being published in the local and international media,” he said, referring an investigative report of the BBC on working hours of garment workers and a report of Bangla daily Prothom Alo on minimum wages.
These reports will hamper the apparel industry in Bangladesh, he said. “We never expect such reports from an international media like the BBC, and we request it to publish objective news on our factories,” he told a press conference at the BGMEA building in the capital yesterday.
Referring to the BBC report that said workers of a particular garment factory was forced to do a 19-hour shift from 7:00am to 2:30am, he said: “We urge the BBC to come here and visit any factory formally or informally."
He also dismissed the Prothom Alo report that said the wage in the garment sector was the lowest compared to that of other sectors.
"It's not true. There are many other sectors such as packaging, tailoring, hotel and restaurant, shrimp and bakery and biscuit industries where the workers' wage is lower than the garment workers."
The BGMEA in association with Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) organised the press conference amid the continued unrest by garment workers over pay rise.
Workers demand that their minimum wage is increased to Tk 8,114 from Tk 3,000 now. But the owners have so far agreed to hike the existing pay by only Tk 600.
Mannan said production was being hampered due to the unrest, and if it continued, many owners might not be able to pay salary and bonuses ahead of the Eid-ul-Azha.
Former BGMEA president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said vandalism was no solution to increase the pay. “It can only be done through bargaining and negotiation.”
According to him, some local and international quarters are behind the unrest. "The government and the intelligence agencies should look into the matter.”
Replying to queries on Centre for Policy Dialogue's proposal of doubling the existing minimum wage for entry level workers, BKMEA President Salim Osman said it was a matter of negotiation between the owners and workers.
“Besides, a wage board has been formed to settle the issue and we are hoping to see some satisfactory results by November,” he said.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, another former BGMEA president, said the final decision on the minimum wage would come from the board. “We hope the wage board will announce a logical and affordable wage and we will comply with this.”
Requesting the workers to return to work and maintain a peaceful environment in their workplaces, BTMA President Jahangir Alamin said protest could not be a means to settle an issue.
“Negotiation is the only way to solve a problem,” he said.

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