The relations among workers, employers and the state relating to industrial work are usually termed IR.
Primarily the relation is between worker and employer but such relation invariably involves the participation of the state because all the rules and regulations related to IR have been designed in the light of constitutional provisions and ILO conventions ratified by the government. Truly, these provisions have given some recognition of workers right which ultimately leads to better IR in Bangladesh.
IR arise out of the prime economic relationship in society in which workers and employers (management) interest are often seem opposing but opposition might be reduced in order to obtain a reasonable working relation between them. In Bangladesh, this opposition between labour and management is even more lethal. Management still considers workers as little more than cogs in the machine. They are afraid to see their dictatorial role dwarfed and apprehensive of the encroachment of trade union in management. Yet the management concedes that the trade union is a necessary evil, it must tolerate because in management crisis it is the trade union that disciplines the militant workers. Evidence shows that an industry cannot run smoothly if the workers and management always fight with each other. Both of them should consider each other as equal partner in their race of higher productivity, profitability and wages, each of which are inter-related.
In any societies, the state plays a crucial role in IR as employer, mediator, and regulator through various organs, it overrides all other parties on almost all issues concerned. None can think of IR without some sort of state involvement in it. The intervention of state machinery over RMG industry have brought to light the actual character of state towards working class. Whatever the extent of state intervention is, its form and magnitude vary according to the nature of the states legal and administrative framework for the settlement of disputes.
It is true that, in RMG industry, workers job security remain under dreadful stress and strain as they face a constant threat of dismissal by management. As a result a militant situation prevails in the field of IR in Bangladesh and any possibility of its improvement seems a distant reality unless a true industrial democracy is ensured.
In advanced societies, where democracy is an active institution, workers and management are free to form their own organizations or join any fraternity by choice through which they are allowed to settle their differences.
The state machinery tries to play a neutral role between worker and management in such societies. But the situation is far different in societies ruled by the different types of democratic government where basic workers right thwarted or denied by the management, the normal industrial life is often seriously dislocated.
As a result, industrialization suffers, organized working class remains small in size and its bargaining power is weak wherefore the management finds it easy going with ruthless exploitation of labour which is even worse in the RMG sector.
Sound IR is a sine-qua-non for a planned economic development and also solving the problems at workplace. For sustainable RMG industry, mutual trust, understanding, cooperation and confidence among the actors of IR are very important. But, in practice, the IR situation in RMG industry is not satisfactory. The relationships between the management and the trade union leaders RMG industry of Bangladesh is as the master and his bulldog.
The management always tries to perpetuate in his dominance the power occupying the many workplace unions in any way. Sometimes management use bribing to create a pocket union or forcible occupation of CBA unions in order to have monopoly power of IR. Consequently the trade union/CBA leadership is found to be anemic, devoid of true democratic values and anarchic without a vision.
Available evidence shows that the supply of manpower far exceeds the demand as the pace of industrialization is not encouraging and thereby, the unhealthy situation are prevail in the field of IR. There are several reasons for slow growth of industrialization and increased unemployment in Bangladesh. Important among these are: absence of industry democracy in real sense of the term;negative attitude of employers towards, workers and their unions, lack of effective tripartism and social dialogue for disputes settlement, imposition of restriction on trade union activities, undue intervention by management in the internal affairs of trade union, lack of mutual trust and confidence among the actors of IR, inadequate and irregular payment of wages, and absence of committed trade union leaders.
In the Perspective Plan 2010-2021 aligned with the BangladeshVision 2041 and SDGs 2030, the exploration of new RMG market has been highly emphasized. Accordingly the integrated rules and policy framework related to IR has been considered as an urgent need which will ultimately help to build the envisaged developed and prosperous Bangladesh. Every HR manager is facing severe competition and inventing new strategies for optimizing resources specially maximizing the gains from human capital. Moreover, the technological development and rapid growth of ICT user have been eliminate many hard jobs and routine work, declining demand for employees/workers, reduced workplace dependency and also facilitate working anywhere and anytime. This trend indicates that, in future, the effectiveness and sustainability of RMG industry shall be largely determined by the two considerations: (i) better utilization of modern technology and ICT; (ii) usage of human resources properly. Synergy of human resources shall bring maximum benefits for the RMG and HR manager shall be the great contribution to the synergy.
In the emerging scenario, the HR manager has to be particularly concerned about the three issues of RMG industry-(i) preparing employees for adaptation of changes in market, technology and competition; (ii) developing a new basis of relations with trade union; and (iii) enriching the different skills of workers for working together to solve the of problems RMG industry effectively. Now the questions often arises; (i) what is the most fundamental changes and new challenging roles which shall be required to be made by HR manager? (ii) Whether good HR practices at organization and national levels to mitigate the challenges of RMG industry.
Recently, the HR Manager of RMG industry has to move from confrontation to collaboration. He would support to build a team management culture and promote enlightened trade union with recognition of workers right, fair wages and bargaining issues whose values are in harmony with good IR practices. Sound IR climate would facilitate the sustainable RMG industry to move together for a better Bangladesh tomorrow.
The writer is a Professor & Member, University Grants Commission of Bangladesh, Dhaka
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