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DHAKA – A survey of almost 4,000 ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh found that 97.5 per cent of them do not have trade unions. The survey by the influential Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) also found out workers’ organisations continue to remain either weak or non-functional in garment factories. The lack of unionisation and associated collective bargaining is a major problem in Bangladesh, and raises the question of why the country continues to receive preferential trading benefits from the EU, which are dependent on the implementation of ILO labour rights conventions.

Data for the survey was collected from 3,856 factories with 3.6 million workers. It was led by CPD research director Khondaker Golam Moazzem. Around half the factories surveyed were small, 42 per cent were medium and the remainder were large in size.

Commenting on the findings, CPD chairman Rehman Sobhan said a global consultation is required for social improvement of the RMG workers who should be “given the most credit for success of the garment sector.”

He also said the government and parliament can play the vital role for the improvement of the situation by ensuring the sharing of profit for the garment workers as there is “now prevailing an unfair and unjust situation.”

He added that one-third of parliament members in Bangladesh are garment owners – surely a huge conflict of interests in itself.

Also commenting on the findings, chair of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Shafiul Islam Mohidddin admitted concern about a lack of trade union activities in the RMG sector but also claimed that workers welfare committees in factories are “working to protect the interest of the workers.”

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