A weekly round up of articles about employment, the labour market, skills training and workforce development. This week’s round up is drawn from The Financial Express. Here is the news for the week ending 21st April 2016.
This week in the Bangladesh English Press…
…Workplace safety slowly improving amidst delays and resistance. Some worker demonstrations end while others begin. Farmers and fishers are finding it hard to grow their enterprises, or even support themselves as financial support remains distant. A bright story on the success of lamp makers in Pabna.
Workplace safety improving in garment factories
While the project for physical remediation of ready made garment factories remains slow due to resistance from factory owners, the number of fire incidents in factories has decreased dramatically. In 2012 there were 250 officially recorded factory fires, killing 115 people, however in 2015 there were only 5, causing no deaths. Workers health and safety has been a closely watched issue since the Rana Plaza incident in April of 2013, and although progress has been slow there are moments of optimism.
Uneasy relations between owners and employees
Jute-mills protesters are heading back to work after representing labour unions had productive talks with the interested ministry last week. The grievances were prompted by changing ownership, which had led to unpaid wages. Workers took to the streets in the Khulna region for multiple day strikes, hunger strikes and blockades over a 10 day period, where they demanded more consistent wage payment, and better budget allocation. Hopefully as work resumes the jute-mills can come to a more agreeable arrangement between the owners and the workers.
Ready made garment workers are heading to the streets in Chittagong in response to unpaid wages. The factory was shut down last week, and its owner hastily fled without paying two month’s worth of salaries. Meetings between the workers and the factory’s Quality Control Officer, the factory owner, and police have begun talks on remuneration, however they stand at an impasse.
Farmers and fishers hurting from poor support
The latest cash subsidies for jute products will yield little return, say sector insiders. As prices fall in the industry, these cash subsidies are essential to maintain afloat. However, only larger enterprises that own mills will be able to earn these subsidies, as they are allowed to apply for cash benefits from the Bangladesh Jute Mills Association because they own jute mills. Conversely, small and medium sized enterprises will not, leading to concerns that the industry will not be able to achieve healthy and even growth. There are more than 200 small and medium Jute enterprises who lose out because they don’t independently run a jute mill, which means they are struggling to maintain a profit, often cutting the wages of workers and working for longer hours.
Farmers struggle to mechanise agricultural work because fiscal concessions remain low. Many farmers are becoming increasingly frustrated with low amount of financial support from the government as they attempt to modernise their land, equipment, and agricultural techniques in order to meet growing demand from a growing population. Tractors, power tillers, thrashers, and other large farm tools are too expensive for most farmers, and without help from the government, farmers will be unable to purchase them. Some farmers are considering cooperative ownership to be able to pool money to afford expensive farm equipment, however such a movement faces large reservations from villages and larger landowners.
Fishermen having a hard time earning a livelihood in Rangpur region as shrinking water bodies leave fewer and fewer fish. The annual demand for fish in the district is roughly 70,000 tonnes, however fishermen are only able to catch around 24,000 tonnes, causing prices to increase dramatically. Since there are fewer fish, many fishermen are at a loss of how to generate an income, and there are few protection programs to put them back on their feet.
A bright spot
Lamp makers in Pabna are seeing large profits due to increasingly frequent periods of “load shedding.” When the demand for electricity surpasses the capacity of the power plant, technicians resort to consciously rolling out blackouts region by region, decreasing the load on the system, hence the term “rolling blackout” or “load shedding.” As this becomes more frequent, villages, markets, stores, and homes need a reliable source of light during periods of darkness. To meet this need, around 30 families in Pabna began making homemade lamps out of pots, cans, tins, and other household items at low costs, with consistently positive returns.