Better treatment for Bangladeshi garment workers

11 Aug

According to the National Labor Committee (NLC), the R.L Denim workers are getting better treatment after the international expose on one of the death of their co-workers. Eighteen-year-old Fatema was literally worked to death and refused permission to rest when she fell sick last December. The matter was brought to the attention of US President Barack Obama who have co-sponsored a new legislation to make US corporations responsible for their overseas sweatshop conditions (read here for the NGO report and the updates).

According to a fact-finding visit by the NLC, things have improved:

Now, no one is cursed at, humiliated or beaten as they were in the past.  The workers were very clear that after the firing of the general manager and most abusive supervisors “treatment is now quite good.”  They are paid correctly and on time.  Overtime is no longer forced, and the standard shift is from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a half-hour morning tea break and an hour off for lunch.  In the past, they were often forced to work through their lunch hour.  Other improvements include the fact that the factory has been cleaned and painted, and there is now a small factory clinic with free medicines.  Also, there is now a canteen where workers can take their lunch, rather then sitting in the dirt or on the roof as they did in the past.  Several workers commented that the bathrooms are now clean and there are even towels.  There have also been health and safety improvements:  They have been provided with clean drinking water, respiratory masks, hair caps, vests and identification cards.

Let’s keep out fingers crossed and I hope the factory will continue to treat its workers better. If this episode has taught us anything, it is that activism and organised labour rights coupled with international pressure can make some significant achievements. Of course, there is a lot more work to be done.

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