Commerce Minister Hafizuddin Ahmed at a discussion called upon Wednesday the garment factory owners, trade union leaders and workers to help restore normalcy in the apparel industry and ensure "a win-win situation" for all concerned.
The minister, however, warned if the ongoing acts of vandalism and anarchy continued the growth of garments sector would suffer a serious setback.
"If the local investors switch over to other sectors or move to a foreign country, all the workers would be rendered jobless. So, both the owners and the workers of the RMG sector should behave in a disciplined manner for the greater interest of the country," Ahmed told a civil society dialogue, organised by the local think-tank, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
The minister urged the RMG entrepreneurs to be sincere in their payment to workers and to train up their mid-level officials of the factories on ways to build up a healthy management- worker relationship.
The CPD arranged the discussion meeting on the current disturbances in the RMG sector aiming to find a way out but it saw some fireworks.
In the discussion meeting, some factory owners and trade union leaders were engaged in a heated debate over the issue of wages and other benefits of workers. The trade union leaders present at the dialogue alleged that owners exploited their workers to the maximum but the leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) denied the allegation.
The debate on a few occasions turned so fierce that Executive Director of the CPD Debapriya Bhattachariya, who moderated the meeting, had to intervene several times to calm down the angry trade union leaders and owners.
Ministers, lawmakers, labour leaders, workers and representatives from the civil society took part in the discussion.
Former advisor of the caretaker government Syed Manzur Elahi presided over the function while State Minister for Labour and Employment Aman Ullah Aman attended the programme as the chief guest.
Aman said the prime minister has already formed a high level convening committee headed by the secretary of the ministry of LGRD, SM Jahurul Islam to find out the people who masterminded the anarchy in the garment factories on May 20 and onwards.
The committee will submit its report very soon, he told the audience.
Aman said a wage board will be formed very soon to fix minimum wages and other benefits for the RMG workers.
He said the government would make provisions asking the factory owners to give appointment letters and identity cards, weekly leave, maternity leave and other facilities to the apparel workers.
He said all the workers and labour leaders, who were arrested following the labour unrest at Savar, Ashulia and Shripur, are being freed.
He said the failure of the mid-level management of the factories has been largely responsible for such an unexpected incident in this sector.
President of the International Chamber of Commerce-Bangladesh (ICC-B) Mahbubur Rahman said the benefits and wages should be shared according to the performance of the individuals. He asked the trade union leaders to contribute to the welfare of the workers.
He said there are vested quarters which are out to stall the growth of the RMG sector. The ICC-B president urged all concerned to comply with laws and rules concerned.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Tipu Munshi said many factory owners are paying more than minimum wages fixed earlier by the government.
He urged all concerned to sit together to reach a decision without resorting to acts of vandalism and anarchy.
President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Mir Nasir Hossain urged the factory owners to increase the salary of the workers and run their business smoothly for the greater interest of the country.
Labour leader Nazma Akter said everybody including owners and workers should take care of this industry, but not at the cost of the workers.
Executive director of the CPD Debapriya Bhattachariya coordinated the discussion.
Former Commerce Minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, Naser Rahman, MP, Reduan Ahmed MP, Shahjahan Khan MP, Faruk Khan MP, former BGMEA president Annisul Huq, President of SKOP Waziullah, President of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) Fazlul Hoque, President of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce Industry (DCCI) MA Momen and former President of DCCI Sayeeful Islam, among others, attended the dialogue.