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RMG of Bangladesh scrutinized for Labor Rights in US Hearing

BTJ Desk Report
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RMG of Bangladesh scrutinized for Labor Rights in US Hearing

Representatives from Bangladesh’s apparel sector faced rigorous questioning on labor rights, worker productivity, and wages during a virtual hearing conducted by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) on Monday last.

USITC Chairman David Johansson and his colleagues directed inquiries to five countries exporting garments to the US market, including Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Pakistan, as requested by the US Trade Representative. The investigation seeks to uncover any unfair advantages gained through unethical labor practices and to understand how these nations have secured a significant share of the US garment industry.

At the hearing, officials from Bangladesh’s commerce ministry and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) fielded questions. Faruque Hassan, BGMEA’s president, addressed most queries on behalf of Bangladesh.

Additionally, stakeholders have until March 24th to submit written statements, with the commission expected to present its investigation report to the USTR by August 30th.

During the discussion, Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh highlighted a 316% increase in workers’ wages over the past decade, alongside substantial rises in production costs per unit. He stressed that maintaining competitiveness in the US market necessitates more than just low prices.

Responding to inquiries about worker productivity relative to Cambodia, Faruque Hassan emphasized the industry’s investment in modern technology to minimize manual labor. He noted that while Bangladeshi workers’ productivity is lower than that of China, Vietnam, and Indonesia, efforts are underway to enhance efficiency.

Regarding trade unions in Export Processing Zones (EPZs), Faruque Hassan clarified that despite different names, every apparel factory within EPZs has a trade union, totaling over 1,400. He explained that workers elect their leadership through elections, similar to Cambodia, where multiple unions in factories might inflate the numbers.

In addressing concerns about labor efficiency, Faruque Hassan acknowledged the need for improvement and expressed willingness to analyze the efficiency of Cambodian workers in comparison to their Bangladeshi counterparts.

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