Workers in uncertainty as RMG factories shut in Savar

Noman Mahmud, Savar

More than a dozen readymade garment (RMG) factories closed their operations in Savar and Ashulia, outskirt of capital Dhaka, during the last one year, which officials said due to failing to meet compliance issues. “Factories, which can ensure compliance with national and international labour standards and labour rights, can continue their business, and who could not are not attracting the buyers, resulting in closure of their operations,” KM Ali Azam, secretary of Labour and Employment Ministry, told the Bangladesh Post.

The last of the closure took place three RMG factories in Savar on February 20 last shut their operations following a joint meeting with workers leaders, owners and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). The three factories are Passion Jeans Ltd, Raquef Apparels Washing and Packaging Ltd and Passion Apparels and Wears Ltd. However, the washing section of Raquef Apparel will continue operation.

Sources said several factories, who take sub order, had to shut down their operations. Many owners closed their factories due to rise in production cost caused by hike in workers’ wages, compliance development cost, and lack of gas and electricity. “The authorities gradually had to shut down their factories due to increasing of workers’ salary,” Md Rezwan Selim, a director of the BGMEA, told Bangladesh Post.

Explaining the present scenario, Selim said, “The Passion Jeans was thriving a couple of years ago. Things turned against them when the company raised the workers’ wage in January 2019,” he added. When contacted, Md. Shakil, deputy general manager of Raquef Apparels Ltd, declined to comment.

Bangladesh Post could not reach the factory owners for comment. The labour secretary, however, does not agree that rise in workers’ wage is “one of the most reasons to close a factory since others are doing business in a competitive market. “In fact, it is difficult for the manufactures to survive in this competition market those who do not export themselves,” Ali argued.

Md Kabir Hossain, secretary of National Garment Worker Federation, echoed the labour secretary. “These factories may have failed to operate in line with the buyer’s term, and unable to supply the products as per buyer’s requirements,” he said. Workers’ fate in uncertainty Uncertainty looms large over the fate of around three thousand RMG workers who recently lost job due to the sudden closure of the three factories in Savar.

Marufa Begum, a sewing operator at Raquef Apparels Ltd, told Bangladesh Post on Thursday, “I had worked there for two years and I have a five-member family, they depend on me. But their life is uncertain now since I lost my job. “I do not know what to do as I found no job in the last 7 days”, she lamented.

Md. Mehedi Hasan, deputy inspector general of Factories and Establishments of Dhaka district told Bangladesh Post that the owners, however, assured the government that they would the workers’ arrear as deicide in the joint meeting. “Around 15 small and medium size RMG factories shut down their operations last year in Savar and Ashulia leaving at least 9-10 thousand workers out of job,” worker leader Kabir said.

“Majority of the jobless workers have found no job yet. It is really a matter of concern,” he added. New employment The labour secretary, however, said that currently they are trying to accommodate 20 lakh new people into their workplace in each year and they are focusing on rising investment in other sector along with the RMG sector to create new employment.

“However, the RMG sector having a breakthrough as the sector employees mostly female workers enhancing woman empowerment. We want it well maintained,” Ali added.