Women make up the majority of workers in the Bangladesh Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector as a whole, with 60.8% of all working women being employed in the sector. However, poor working conditions, low wages, irregular wage payment, extended working hours and lack of job security have long been and remain significant problems of the industry.
Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Solidarity (BGWS) is a labour rights organisation that fights for the labour rights of RMG workers including livelihood, safety of workers, a safe work environment, injury compensation, punishment of labour rights violators, and trade union rights. The organisation’s primary focus is to increase the minimum wage of RMG workers to an amount which will ensure better living standards. The RMG workers currently receive 8,000 BDT (65 GBP) as their minimum wage, which is insufficient to maintain a basic standard of living.
Physical attack by the police during protest marches or sit-in protests is a common form of backlash faced by BGWS as well as other trade unions in Bangladesh. Although the Bangladesh Labour Act (amended 2013) promotes freedom of association, trade union registration remains highly politicised and BGWS has been denied registration multiple times. Moreover, the union leaders are under constant surveillance by the state and the market owners. Furthermore, due to the restrictive gender norms, women workers are not encouraged and even sometimes prohibited to join trade unions by their families.
From Saraka Garment fire incident in 1990 to Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, thousands of workers in Bangladesh died due to lack of workplace safety, security, and lack of accountability by the authorities. There have been changes in the situation since Rana Plaza, but workers are still fighting (with and without) trade unions for a better compensation act, safe workplace for women, and overall increase in the minimum wage to meet their basic needs.
This video shares the inauguration ceremony for the 2nd National Council for Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Solidarity, which was held on 2nd December 2022 at Shahbagh, Dhaka, where the members of the struggle and their allies came together to present their demands through music, poetry, procession and speech.