The Bangladeshi Garment industry brings life to millions of workers and their many million more family members. This life, however, often comes at the exchange of their humanity. This has been the struggle, in its simplest of forms. The rights of the worker to save her/his humanity, and to have a fairness in the process.
The murders of worker activists, the worker riots on highways, fires, accidents, collapses or any other tragedy kept striking the worker. Helping the men and women, nationally and internationally, advocate even more powerfully than before, to forward the agenda of brand accountability and worker rights. It brought in money for a campaign for worker rights (through well connected, politicized, and powerful worker leaders) from the consumerist west; a significant effort of the campaign went pushing brands for money/compensation for workers (and also the finances needed to organize and process such worker beneficiary initiatives). All forces joined hands in Accords and Alliances, and any other name from both local sources or international players. However, still, the lives of workers kept being toyed with, and still remains as such.
The rise in minimum wage with all its controversies and injustices is yet to be fully implemented throughout the country. The Swan Garments workers had to agitate and suffer through continuous struggle for 26 days (including the biggest festival in Bangladesh, amidst struggle, without their wage paid or bonuses received) only to receive one month’s wage and promises of their 3 months worth of salary to be paid. Their struggle continuous indefinitely, as does the struggle of Tuba Group workers, Rana Plaza workers, and workers of many more factories who usually get fired without cause, notices or proper dues cleared.
However, the recent biggest blow to the Bangladeshi Garment Sector is surely the final GSP refusal to Bangladesh by the USTR of USA. While Garment trade will not be directly harmed by this decision, the fears are mostly centered around a possible domino effect this may have on the much prized EU GSP that Bangladesh enjoys and reaps benefit from for its Garment trade.
As it goes with every economic decision made at the pulpit of power, analysts and elites are sitting round tables and discussing its impact of the economy and the greater spheres of life and its improvement. The poor workers are also displayed as the worst effected, as they have always been by the corporate, associations, rich, elite, or the intellectual.
One cannot but fear about its implications on the already suffering workers of Bangladesh, and the upcoming Eid ul Azha (popularly known as the Korbani Eid in Bangladesh). Here comes another day when the whole country with enjoy long holidays with family and friends, while we are used to seeing the garment worker scream out for her days wage.
With Brands eying Africa, and politics rife with selfish objectives to further ones own political, ideological, economical or financial interest over the sad condition of workers, it will certainly take a great drive bring the much prized equity and harmony in the international worker-brand-consumer relationship, which verify now in this modern consumerist era, has become a test of our times on the very soul where we believe our humanity resides in.
May worker rights overcome every distraction from its pure and unsullied mission of uniting working hands to pave way for its bright destiny.