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2024-02-11 20:10:00

Women RMG workers face multiple problems

Rashed Hossain

Women RMG workers face multiple problems

The country’s women Readymade Garment (RMG) workers have been facing various problems including salary discrimination, maternity leave, sexual harassment, additional work hours, and physical and mental problems. 

This scenario was found as this correspondent visited several RMG factories in the capital. According to the RMG sector concerned, 60 per cent of the total 40 lakh workforce in the sector are women.   

Kulsum Begum, who works at an RMG factory in the capital’s Matuail as a helper, said her drug-addicted husband works at various organisations as day labour. Her husband’s income is not sufficient to maintain bread and butter. They have no financial capability to run five member-families. That’s why Kulsum has worked at the factory for the last seven years. She joins the work at 8:00 am. Before that, the mother of three children completes household chores. She returns home at around 9:00 pm daily from work. 

The self-esteemed woman lamented that she works 12 hours daily and gets Tk 7,000 as a monthly salary. It is a matter of sorrow that her male colleagues do the same job at the same duration but get Tk 9,000 salary monthly. Someone gets Tk 10,000. Kulsum often does overtime duty. At the end of the month, she struggles to buy food for family members. In addition, she frequently faces sexual harassment at the workplace.    

Another woman RMG worker Afsana lives in the capital’s Rayerbag. She works as a machine operator at a factory.  Her father is a farmer and her mother is sick. Afsana is third among her six siblings.

The young lady said she started to work at the RMG factory from an early age due to the financial crisis of her family. She has to spend half of her salary on house rent and expenses rest of the money for other purposes including food. She couldn’t deposit some money for treatment or health services. If any member of her family fell sick, she used to take a loan for treatment. 

These stories are not only for Kulsum and Afsana. The stories of all women RMG workers in Bangladesh are almost the same.

According to a survey by the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), the wage or salary discrimination between male and female workers is 51-60 per cent. It said the average earning of an RMG worker is Tk 9,984 excluding overtime. The salary of a female worker was Tk 9,669 and Tk 10,928 for a male worker. SANEM conducted the survey last year.

International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) conducted research on women workers in the RMG sector. The research found that 80 per cent of women RMG workers are suffering from anaemia. It said eight out of every 10 women workers aged 18-49 years are suffering from anaemia. Not only anaemia, women workers are also suffering from various diseases caused by malnutrition.   

Women RMG workers face physical and mental depression at one stage of working long days. For this reason, their productivity is also decreased.

The Bangladesh Garment Workers Trade Union Centre (GWTUC) central committee member Shahin Alam said the main discrimination between male and female workers is salary discrimination. In some cases, female workers used to do overtime at late night. They face harassment on roads during their return at night.    

Shahin also said women workers don’t know about labour and trade unions can’t give them a basic idea of their legal rights. Barring trade unions is a big weapon to exploit women workers.

@ The article was published on print and online versions of The Bangladesh Pratidin on February 11, 2024 and has been rewritten in English by Golam Rosul.

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