Worker abuse or harassment is nothing new in Bangladesh, neither has it been unknown in the west in its industrial age. However, no matter how much of it may be rooted in our history, the need to develop human civilization demands to abolish it fully and forever.
Recently, with the European Accord and American Alliance working in full swing in Bangladesh, the focus for now is much more into the structural and safety issues surrounding garment factories across this country, but worker’s right is not limited to that. In this article we would like to focus on some collected stories of three garment worker who have been working in three factories of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Their stories are collected from different worker federations by RISE Society, and are presented to you without particular details of the worker (which is withheld by us for their personal safety).
The stories which these workers willingly shared with us are vivid descriptions of worker abuse still being prevalent in some factories in Bangladesh which supply apparel for Brands in countries which advocate human rights globally, but somehow find it quite easy to compromise with human rights and worker rights violations when it happens in some poor country stitching their glittering outfits wearing which they display their “higher” politics and “critical” analysis on human rights, ethics and law.
While our article highlight the troubles of three workers, they are in no way undermining the need of these workers to have their jobs, and the contribution of these factories providing jobs for these workers. These factories must remain, the jobs should be there, and the brands need to continue coming to Bangladesh. However, no factory and no brand is doing a charity here, which means that they are doing business and earning far more profits then whatever they can and should invest for better working conditions, worker safety and taking on more responsibility for each other on the supply chain.
The message is simple, responsibility of the brand, the factory and the worker for each other cannot be compromised, and if one does not take its responsibility seriously or with commitment, none of the other would.
Future Garments Limited
A distressed Fa****, Operator at Future Garments Limited im Mirpur Section 2 says “I usually work till 7:30PM or longer, and I have no weekends. On 7 February 2014, verbal abuse started getting physical with the Production Manager and Line Chief targeting me with demeaning postures and beating. It started with my asking for a leave that day, and the line chief immediately started pulling my hair and later landed a slap on me. Just because of the sin of asking for a leave, he actually cut the attendance bonus.
Last month on 12 March 2014, due to work overload I was lagging behind in my line and the Production Manager attacked me with harsh words and a hard slap. When I enquired about my fault, he accused me of being stupid and mockingly said, “do you think your performance deserved a kiss from me on your cheeks or a slap rather than this slap?”
Such abuse has continued since, and I have contacted trade unionists for support. However, my attendance bonus is cut once again without any fault on mine, and I am being targeted systematically. This is not rare, as workers are often targeted like me, and bullying is a common phenomenon in factories like ours.
I cannot just leave, as I have worked here for over a period of time, and I need to provide for my children through this job.
Helpless Mon*****, a helper in Mirpur Section 14’s MBM Garments Limited describes the abuse she must bear every day at work. “I have been working in the factory since 29 October 2002,” she says, adding “Since March this year, our supervisor Mr. Hridoy and Production Manager (PM) Mohammad Rafik started pushing me and punching me rapidly, which I later realized was instigated by the PM’s sexual interest in me. He started using abusive words against my parents, and treating me badly, and if I protested he threatens to fire me. I need my job desperately to sustain my life. As I have worked here for such a long time, I cannot afford to leave this job either.
Operator He**** has been working in The Immaculate Export Pvt. Limited since the year 2002, however recently she had to leave her job. “It is not a pleasure to leave the factory one had been working in for such a long time,” she continuous “had it not been for the wave of unpleasant remarks, slaps and intentional creation of problems for me at work so that I myself resign from the job.” She complains that since the time she had been demanding her Gate Pass, and asked for a leave, the supervisor, line chief and floor in-charge have been exceptionally brutal with her. After getting slapped by the supervisor on February this year, she complained the incident to floor in-charge Mohsin who took off his shoe and hit her on her face instantly.
Helena had to leave her job and now she works in another factory. She describes her situation as a usual occurrence in some factories where a worker who have been there since a very long time is tactically removed to bring in fresh new workers without having to compensate her fully for her period of time. As work was made impossible for Helena, resigning meant that I would never get benefits as my factory will get away with it.
According the Bangladesh Labor Law, workers who resign from their jobs are entitled to certain separation benefits. However, getting these benefits is bureaucratic. The concerned worker is also asked to give the employer advance notice 60 days, 30 days and 14 days (corresponding to employment status of permanent, temporary [monthly], and temporary [contractual]). Where a worker intends to resign from her/his service without any notice, s/he may do so by paying to the employer wages in lieu of the notice which is required to be given under the law (Bangladesh Labor Law 2006, amendment 2013, section 27).