With this being the London Fashion Week, I thought I would bring myself up to date with developments in the sweatshop trade. Last week I spoke to Mr Ruhul Amin, General Secretary, Garment Sramik Trade
Union Kendro ( Garment Worker Trade Union Centre). Those of you who have seen Bostrobalikara might recall his name. He told me what appears below. Roughly verbatim:
The minimum wage thing is a little complex. There is supposed to be a
tripartite review of wages by the government, factory owners and trade
unions every two years. Just before the departure of the last BNP
government, this period was extended to three years. That expires this
That tripartite body set wages for helpers at 1600 -1700 taka per month. ( £1 is roughly 116 takas).
For helpers, depending on grade, it varies between 1800 to 2400 takas
per month. Most factories have dragged their heels even about this but
given the stridency of the worker’s movement most do provide this
level of salary. This is not however commensurate with current demands
by the trade unions who want a living wage. That would require a
helper to get 5000 takas per month. The Unions have arrived at that figure
through the ILO formula for deriving a living wage. No companies
provide that. Some companies which boast high rates of pay shroud the
actual activity - these payments are for piece rate activity and the
piece rate varies over time given market demand etc. The work is also
very arduous and the longevity of these machine operators is about 10
years ( they might start at 25 and they will finish by age 35).
So the agreement on wages - which is a pittance - is
generally being adhered to. The living wage is of course nowhere near it.
The other demands of workers are far from being addressed: medical
facilities, casual leave, service leave, restriction of overtime to
two hours is not adhered to, timely wages are not given, the full
numbers of hours worked are often not noted and therefore not paid for
etc. Only 1 percent of companies FULFILL ALL OF THE 2006 AGREEMENT. The agreement contained 10 points. ( weekly holidays, timely payments, 2 hour max overtime etc etc). Over 90
percent however fulfill the WAGES agreement which is a pittance and
not a living wage.
The seventh edition of Film South Asia ‘09, the festival of South Asian documentaries, held in Kathmandu Nepal awarded Swapnabumi the 2nd best award. Here is the jury’s decision:
The Promised Land by Tanvir Mokammel is very well crafted and deftly captures the festering sore of ‘stateless citizens’ or ‘stranded citizens’ in so many regions of our extended sub-continent. It powerfully draws our attention to the issue of identities that have become a bane of post-colonial South Asia – the question ‘Who Am I’ becomes one of the trickiest questions of our times, as many segments of our population become playthings of current history. The film tells this story with grace.
We are all very happy of course and we are particularly grateful to Mohammad Hasan, a leading activist from the Urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh, for presenting the film at the Festival. The top prize went to Yasmine Kabir “The Last Rites” a beautiful film about shipbreaking in Bangladesh.
Stefania Ragusa, an Italian journalist, has reviewed Bostrobalikara for Il Manifesto.