Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday urged all stakeholders concerned, including the factory owners and workers, to stay alert so that this important sector can withstand the tough global competition.
“Efforts should be there so that this important sector could survive facing the tough global competition. You’ll have to maintain a congenial atmosphere to keep up the buyers’ spirit,” she told a steering committee meeting of the Garment Workers’ Coordination Council at her office.
Hasina further said, “It’s my request to protect this garment industry because this sector ensures the livelihoods of many of you…I think its’ very important to see the interests of the workers involved in the production of garment products with their sweat and labor.”
Shipping Minister and Garment Workers’ Coordination Council convener Shahjahan Khan and leaders of different labor organizations, including Touhidur Rahman, Kawsar Ahmed Palash, Babul Akhter, Jahanara Begum also spoke on the occasion.
About the hike in wages and allowances of the garment workers, Hasina said the arrangement for the garment workers’ salaries and allowances should have to be made in such a way so that they could maintain a descent life.
“The demands might be higher, but both parties (owners and workers) should have to come to an understanding,” the Prime Minister said.
Hasina said although the government puts pressure on the factory owners, their interests should also be taken care of by the government. “If the factory owners stop their factories amid too much of pressure, then where the workers would go?” she said.
The Prime Minister also underscored the need for introducing life insurance for the garment workers. “It’s necessary to make arrangements for life insurance for the garment workers, and the owners could take steps in this regard. I’ll talk to the owners how it could be introduced?”
Criticising the ‘Tetul Theory’ of the Hefajat-e-Islam chief Allama Ahmed Shafi, she said that Islam itself has ensured the rights of women as it has never maligned. “Bibi Khadija was the first to accept Islam while Bibi Sumaiya was the first to embrace martyrdom.”
Hasina also blasted the opposition leader for supporting the ‘Tetul Theory’ and said, “It’s very unfortunate as she (Khaleda) did not protest it being a woman.”
Mentioning that her government after assuming office this time has fixed the minimum wages of the garment workers at Tk 3,000, she said, “No one had to come to me for raising this demand … I did it on my own , I did it from my heart.”
The Prime Minister said she does politics only to serve the country’s people…there’s no room for personal aspirations and interests. I’ve given the mandate to serve as Prime Minister, and I don’t need power beyond that. Power is not important… what we need is to build the country nicely.”
Regarding the amendment to the Labour Law, the Prime Minister said that both the owners and the workers have their responsibilities where there is a provision for punishment to ensure discipline.
She also said that the law has a provision for trade unionism to ensure leadership for any movement and rein in any unrestrained movement.
About the ‘Rana Plaza’ building collapse in Savar on April, 24, the Prime Minister said that she herself had monitored the rescue operation round the clock. “No rescue operation in the world was conducted for so long except that of the Rana Plaza.”
She said that so far Tk 19 crore have been provided to the family members of the victims and the injured of the Savar Rana Plaza tragedy. The government has provided Tk 10 lakh to each the families of the dead victims.
Mentioning that the garment sector is playing a very important role in gaining foreign currency, the Prime Minister said that the sector is also creating employment opportunities for a huge number of people, especially the women and they are also becoming solvent.
Highlighting various steps of her government in her previous term towards flourishing the garment sector, Hasina said that her government then reduced the gap among the producers of yarn, textile and garment.
She also mentioned that her government has procured modern equipment worth Tk 150 crore for the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense to ensure smooth rescue operations.