Most RMG workers struggle to make ends meet

Udisa Islam
Published : 04:00, Jun 25, 2019 | Updated : 04:00, Jun 25, 2019

Rabeya, an operator at a garment industry, gets Tk 11,000 per month as salary. She lives with her husband and children in a one-room shack, paying Tk 3,000 per months as rent. As per the condition of the landlord, rent will rise by Tk 200 every January and June. Rabeya’s husband is affected by Hepatitis-C and needs medicines worth Tk 4,000 every month.
Hundreds of thousands of workers like Rabeya have to make ends meet with the salary they get, working at garment industries.
After coming back home, Rabeya cooks and then sews clothes till dawn to make extra money. She could not send her seven-year-old son to school due to a shortage of money.
Helper Belayet of a garment factory adds: “I usually take credit from the local grocery shop; eggs are the best food and, sometimes, we can afford broiler chicken; we are forced to buy the cheapest vegetables on offer at the end of the day.”
Every month, we rack up a loan of Tk 3,000 to Tk 4,000.
In the last forty years, remittance sent by expatriates has been consistently the highest foreign currency earner but the workers in this sector earn the least. The declared monthly wage of Tk 930 rose to Tk 1662 in 2006, which was then increased to Tk 3,000 in 2,010 and Tk 5,300 in 2013.
In 2018, their salaries were categorized in 11 grades with the lowest fixed at Tk 8,000.
General Secretary of the Garment Workers’ Trade Union, Jolly Talukdar, adds: “Workers had always been given less than they need so, a deficit of Tk 3 to Tk 4 thousand remains a constant headache.”
Garment worker, Lima Ferdous, observes: “Our grievances do not reach the government; the owners cannot forget the profit they made in the 80s and 90s and so, always want to maintain the same amount of profit.”
Former president of BGMEA, Siddiqur Rahman, adds: “The current wages are alright; workers get regular increment. We are struggling to manage the new wage grade.”
Claiming that 1500 factories closed in the last one and a half years, he asserted: “At such a point, raising salary is not logical.”