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Why workers have to work overtime in our factories

Published : Saturday, 25 November, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 740

Why workers have to work overtime in our factories

Why workers have to work overtime in our factories

In Bangladesh, administrators of factories and other businesses operating under the Labour Act of 2006 often enforce overtime upon their employees regularly, especially when overtime is demanded at the eleventh hour, and workers cannot refuse it. To meet production deadlines and fulfill orders from abroad, workers in its factories are frequently required to work long hours, including overtime.

While providing employment opportunities, this practice has raised concerns about worker rights, safety, and fair compensation. In Bangladesh, overtime rules and policies govern the norms and guidelines about working hours that surpass the usual or regular working hours, along with the remuneration offered for such additional work.

The Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 2(4)defines working hours as the hours employees are available to employers, excluding breaks for food and rest. Adult workers can work up to eight hours daily, subject to 108 rules.

According to Section 102 of the Labour Act, the working hours should not exceed 48 hours per week. A worker's maximum working hours, including overtime, are 60 hours per week. But the average annual working hours cannot exceed 56 hours a week. In the readymade garment (RMG) sector, in a day, almost 62 percent of workers work for 12 hours, and around 23 percent of workers work for 10 hours. Only 4 percent of respondents said they work 8 hours a day, while approximately 12 percent work more than 12 hours, according to a 2018 report.

In contrast, the United States has a defined working hours system, with male employees limited to 8.4 hours and females to 7.7 hours, promoting gender equality and considering economic factors like labor demand, human dignity, and health issues. Bangladesh and the US have vastly different working conditions, with Bangladesh lacking significant minimum salaries to protect its population from inflation, while the US offers a high standard of living.

According to the European statistics agency Eurostat data, full-time workers in the UK work an average of 42.5 hours a week, above the European average of 41.6. In Spain, workers work 40.9, in Portugal, 41.1 and 42.4 in Poland. In no country, either of the Eurostat or the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), workers work a 32-hour-week average.

Bangladesh's GDP is growing at 7-8% annually, surpassing the US and UK. This suggests similar growth in the future.

According to a 2018 survey, in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector, about 62% of workers work 12 hours a day, and roughly 23% work 10 hours. Only 4% of respondents said they work 8 hours daily, while approximately 12% work more than 12 hours.

According to the Labor Act, overtime work is defined as work performed beyond the regular working hours. For overtime work, the worker should receive 1.5 times their regular hourly compensation for each hour of overtime that they put in. While the legal framework in Bangladesh provides guidelines for overtime compensation and limits to safeguard workers, the practical implementation may vary.

The Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013 in Bangladesh resulted in the collapse of a garment factory, highlighting poor working conditions and safety measures in the garment industry highlighting the need for better labor practices.

In a circular published on May 11, 2023, the Ministry of Labour and Employment said that the garment industry would not be subject to the labor law's sections 100, 102, and 105 concerning overtime and working hours. The Lives of Garment Workers during Covid-19', a joint survey by Microfinance Opportunities (MFO) and the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), revealed that the garment workers' income rose in the first three months of 2022, primarily because of overtime and an excessive workload. The survey study states that during January and March of 2023, the workers put in 11 hours of effort every day.

In most situations, the plant management forces the workers to work an extra two hours of overtime each day. The government has extended the six-month overtime limit for workers in the export-oriented ready-made garment industry by two hours, allowing factories to request two hours of overtime daily in exchange for double pay.
RMG exporters who comply with labor legislation and contribute 0.03 percent of their export revenues to the RMG central fund are granted a six-month conditional waiver.

Bangladesh needs collaboration between companies, employees, and the government to establish regulations, promote efficient work practices, and prioritize workforce well-being, ensuring fair working conditions and legal compliance with the Labor Act 2006.

Overtime work is often accompanied by issues like inadequate labor laws enforcement, low wages, and substandard working conditions, posing challenges for both workers and employers. As the country continues to develop and expand its industries, it becomes essential to balance productivity and ensure the workforce's well-being, addressing the complex issue of working overtime from the Bangladesh perspective.

The writer is a student of the department of Law, World University of Bangladesh

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