Workers cannot claim further compensation
Garment workers who survived the Rana Plaza collapse cannot claim further compensation because the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) took away their ID cards after disbursing their salaries in the first week of this month.
BGMEA Joint Secretary (labour) Rafiqul Islam told The Daily Star, “Workers were laid off as per Section-12 of the Bangladesh's labour law, as there is no scope for the five garment factories to restart operations. Thus, those who had not lost their ID cards were asked to submit them during the salary disbursement so that they would not be able to use them to falsely claim any salary in future.”
Legal Counsellor to the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity AKM Nasim pointed out, however, that the workers could no longer file a lawsuit with the labour court for further damage claims as they would be unable to demonstrate proof of employment.
“Most garment factories do not issue appointment letters to workers, although by Bangladesh's labour law they are required to do so. Besides, they were neither given any notice explaining the circumstances of the lay off and details of the compensation packages, nor were they given a pay slip,” he told The Daily Star.
Nargis Akhter, 23, collected her salary from the Savar shooting ground field on May 8 and said, “They made us stand in queue and said we would not be paid our salaries and overtime dues if we could not show our ID cards.”
Nargis underwent surgery for head injuries at Enam Medical College Hospital after she was rescued from the collapsed building. Her ID card was the only evidence of her being a sewing operator at Phantom Apparels since March 2013.
Nasim said the BGMEA could have kept workers' signatures on photocopies of the ID cards when disbursing the salaries as an alternative measure to prevent fraud in the future.
However, Rafiqul said that taking signatures on the salary sheet was not enough because there have been past instances when workers disclaimed their own signatures.