When the new minimum wage was implemented in Bangladesh early this year, garment workers were hoping their lives would change for the better. After all, the wage hike as per the wage board has been quite substantial (from Taka 8,000 to Taka 12,000), and came to effect after a wait of three long years.
But little did they know that it would prove to be a double-edged sword.
As per a study conducted by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), after the wage hike, production target for the workers has been increased by 30 to 36 per cent. What’s more, the report also underlined that if the workers cannot meet the production target, they are forced to work extra hours without overtime, assaulted by management and even restricted from going to the toilets.
Unable to cope with the work pressure and hard to achieve targets, if some have allegedly left their jobs, many more have reportedly been thrown out by the management. And the number of such workers thrown out by the factories is apparently pretty high.
As per Secretary General of IndustryAll Bangladesh Council, Salahuddin Shapon, 10,000 workers were rendered jobless after implementation of the new wage structure while 12,000 have been terminated during the workers’ protest demanding wage hike.
Under the given circumstances, garment workers are reportedly living under constant fear of losing jobs, claimed labour leaders in Bangladesh.
A recent media report cited one such garment worker who was forced to resign from his job and had to resort to hawking goods of daily necessity to eke out a livelihood.
“I had to stitch 80 to 100 apparels per day, but after the wage hike, I was asked to stitch 180,” alleged the garment worker who worked for a prominent garment manufacturer in Dhaka, while speaking to the media.
Babul Akhter, President of Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation, addressing the media, said that after the wage hike, factory owners increased production targets, began sacking and introduced new technologies to cut down workforce and lower human dependency in manufacturing.
However, speaking to Apparel Resources, Sarfaraz Mehdi Anwar (Upol) – Director of Lyric Group, maintained that his organisation has definitely not increased targets for workers as has been cited in certain studies and reports about the industry and neither has the organisation thrown out workers on account of the same.
“Efficiency increase is a continuous process and all manufacturers try to achieve higher efficiencies by various means, but that necessarily does not mean to force the workers to work more or substantially increase their target overnight,” underlined Upol.