Razzak Vila, House-8/A/Ka (4th Floor), Road-13(New), Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

National dialogue on Assessing Exposure and Vulnerabilities of RMG Workers to Climate Change and Environmental Impact

BILS in cooperation with GIZ, organized a national dialogue and the presentation of a research report titled, “Assessing Exposure and Vulnerabilities of RMG Workers to Climate Change and Environmental Impact and the Role of TUs” on 6 March 2024, at CIRDAP Auditorium in the capital. The main objective of the research and national dialogue was to build the capacity of trade unions to promote green social dialogue in the garment industry.
BILS Executive Director Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmmed chaired the session of the event, while Member of the University Grants Commission Prof. Dr. Abu Taher was present as a Special Guest. BILS Deputy Director and Principal Researcher Manirul Islam presented the information obtained in the study through a power-point presentation. Deputy Secretary of Ministry of Labour and Employment Md. Raja Mia, Senior Assistant Secretary of Ministry of Commerce Nazmul Haque, Assistant Director of Department of Environment Md. Mirza Asadul Kibria, Assistant Inspector General of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments Dr. Biswajit Roy, Commission Manager of GIZ STILE Project Dr. Michael Klode, International Climate Finance Expert Md Zakir Hussain Khan, SKOP Joint Coordinator Naimul Ahsan Jewell, IBC General Secretary Kutubuddin Ahmed, BILS Executive Council Secretary Abul Kalam Azad, BILS Director Nazma Yesmin, representatives of BGMEA and of BEF, leaders of national level trade unions, human rights organizations and public and private organizations, economists, lawyers and journalists among others spoke on the occasion. The speakers said that the government, local government, owners and trade unions should work together to reduce the impact of environment and climate change on the garment industry. In addition, they specifically mentioned the need to work at the policy-making level to create social and environmental standards for workers.
The study was conducted on 402 workers of 160 garment factories in Tongi and Gazipur areas. Government, employers, trade unions and garment workers participated in this study. According to the results of the research, 99 percent of the garment workers have migrated from remote areas of the country. Of these, 36% are reported to have migrated due to climate change. Floods, droughts, cyclones, failure to produce crops, increase in pest attacks, loss of productivity etc. are mentioned as reasons. Apart from this, 7 percent are said to have been displaced due to river erosion. A review of the state of climate change shows that 50 percent of garment workers are affected by climate change, resulting in increased leave/absenteeism by 23 percent, decreased efficiency by 8 percent, reduced productivity by 6 percent, reduced income and increased job insecurity by 13 percent. The research findings show that the number of people suffering from disease remains 100 percent, suffering from heat has increased by 65 percent, rainfall and floods have increased by 42 percent and victims of cyclones and floods have increased by 20 percent.
According to the review of environmental pollution on the garment workers, water pollution has increased by about 18 percent and air pollution has increased by about 64 percent. As a result, it is known that 21% of them have headache, 14% of dizziness, 20% of fatigue and 25% of shortness of breath. Apart from this, waterlogging has increased by 7 percent and the consumption of cooking gas has increased by about 33 percent.
According to 60 percent of the workers regarding the environment inside the garment factory due to climate change, the temperature inside the factory has increased. According to 94 percent, heat and hot weather continue for more than 5/6 months in a year. In addition, workers are citing health problems, new diseases, leave/absenteeism, lower productivity, employment insecurity, violence, and reduced income due to increased heat and summer. 60 percent of workers mentioned water pollution in factories, 41 percent of air pollution and about 43 percent of noise pollution. 65 percent of the workers mentioned that factory liquid waste is dumped into local drains, 8 percent said that it is dumped into treatment plants and 8 percent said that it is dumped into rivers, drains and ponds.

55 percent of the workers mentioned that the environmental problems in their residential areas remain unresolved, 22 percent said that the problem is solved at the local government level, 10 percent said that the problem is solved at the community level. According to 54 percent of workers, trade unions lack policy skills and training to deal with environmental issues.