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MTFA demands living wage for RMG workers PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 28 January 2008

Staff Correspondent

Make Trade Fair Alliance(MTFA), a coalition of national and international non-governmental organisations, has demanded that garment workers' be paid living wages.

To that end the alliance demanded an immediate upward revision of the current minimum wages and effective trade unions at every factory to ensure better industrial relations and sustainability of the sector.

Besides, the alliance also strongly spoke for the need of a rationing system for industrial workers to help them offset the impact of spiralling food prices.

Representatives of the alliance, at a press conference at the Dhaka Reporters Unity on Saturday, raised the demand for 'visible and effective' steps to regulate the market for protecting consumers' interests as well as providing subsidy for agricultural inputs to farmers to lessen the costs of production.

Nasimul Hasan of INCIDIN Bangladesh, a non-governmental organisation, reading out the statement titled 'Ensure Living Wages and Food Security for Workers' said that it had become unbearable for more than the 25 lakh garment workers to live on their current wages.

AKM Masood Ali Khan, also from INCIDIN, said with a rationing system the workers' buying capacity would be increased more than their wage increase with little effect on the market. 'There is generally a chance that inflation would be spurred further with increasing wages.'

Ziaul Hoque Mukta, livelihoods coordinator of Oxfam, criticised the interpretation of free market by Bangladeshi policymakers. 'They make it sound as if there is no scope for intervention, regulation or monitoring.'

Mukta said governments around the world heavily regulated and monitored the market in public interest. In this regard he also thought revival of an effective Trading Corporation of Bangla-desh would yield good results.

'People in general are vulnerable to the tyranny of the market forces while conditions of the working classes are worsening,' Shirin Akhter, president of Karmojibi Nari, a member of the alliance, told the press conference.

Regarding negotiations for increasing the workers' wages, Shirin Akhter thought genuine representation could only be possible with effective and constructive trade unions. 'We have been lobbying and advocating the necessity of trade unions at every factory in order to ensure healthy industrial relations.'

The alliance also demanded that the government should play a leading role in protecting the interests of net food importing countries during the negotiations under the World Trade Organisation.

Asked the country's export-oriented garment industry could afford to pay higher wages in the face of an impending economic slowdown in the West as already apprehended by garment factory owners, Masood said stressed upon the good intentions and sincerity of the industrialists and factory owners in general. He said the alliance was both waging movement and lobbying for more market access of Bangladeshi products to developed countries on one hand and improving labour rights on the other.

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