Md A H Siddiqee:
Plainly speaking, those who earn their livelihood by selling their physical Labour are called Workers. This section of production belongs to 3 M’s i.e. Man, Machine and Money which cannot control the other major components of production i.e. land, capital. The employers engage these workers by giving them wage or compensate by kind. Great thinkers have defined the definitions workers; and have pointed out how this section contributes to the overall development of a nation and the growth of capital. Such as “Labour” said Fredriclk Angles “is the source of all wealth”
“Labour” has been recognized as the most important factor of production. Any work whether manual, clerical or technical which is undertaken for monetary consideration is called “Labour” in “Economics”.
Emergence of Working Class in Bangladesh:Prior to the British colonial rule , the Working Class in Bangladesh was so trifling in size that it was not worthy of count. It, being very small, was strictly limited to some specific field such as agriculture, waiving to mention but a few. During the Mughal Empire, Bengal was a very prosperous country for which it attracted so many foreign traders starting from the Arabs to the Europeans. The agricultural workers, however, became surplus during the Company rule as the sector was not able to absorb the supply. Following the Permanent Settlement Act of 1973 during the time of Lord Cornwallis, a new Aristocrat society was developed as against the backdrop of down trodden upon.
The British, however, was not willing to establish large Mills in this country as they decided to use the country as hinterland. Using its agricultural products they set up some jute Mills in Calcutta; and thus ultimately paved the way for the formation Industrial workers and the working Class in Bangladesh.
In the meanwhile, severe poverty, growing landlessness, natural calamity, class disparity, man- made catastrophe such as world war –II, Churchill’s secret war against Indian people all these things ultimately made these rural people from agricultural workers to Industrial workers. The Partition of India in 1947 added fuel to this. Rich landed Hindu Jaminders left this area which is to be replaced by the Bangla speaking Jodhares .
Be that as it may, the surplus Agricultural Labors who migrated from villages to towns for livelihood were not skilled enough to fit in themselves for a changed world. Initially, they used to earn their bred by becoming porters, Richsahw pullers etc. But very soon, they somehow, managed some training to join any Mills and factories. This is how; they became industrial Laborers from Agricultural Laborers. Significantly enough, despite being becoming Industrial Laborers, our Labours had a dual subordination. That is reason why many critics leveled our Industrial Laborers as Semi- agrarian working class. The workers in the 19th century fall under the following ambit: Indigo Plantation workers, Tea Plantation workers, Jute Plantation workers, Cotton Mills workers. In the twentieth century, readymade garment, construction industry came forward to become the important sector of the class. Despite that even now agricultural workers outnumber all.
Socio -economic condition of Industrial Laborers:The Socio -economic condition of Industrial Laborers of both pre colonial and post colonial time is very painful. The employer with the help of the state machinery enacted Laws and regulations depriving the basic human rights of the Industrial Laborers. Following the infamous Rana plaza Collide the Pope called our RMG workers as slaves. But frankly speaking, our RMG workers are less than slaves. What the slaves were entitled to under Roman Empire; are not endorsed by our Republic. It’s really painful. Their conditions are as follows:
- The financial position our worker is very feeble. The wage they receive from their company compared to the required for their sustenance is not sufficient. That is why they got into vicious circle of credit; and one day they are to sell their ancestral property and ultimately become pauper.
- The most of the workers is illiterate or half educated. So, they lack in knowledge regarding Laobur law. This unawareness on the part of the workers is subtly capitalized by the Employer and the Trade Unions as well. Being unaware about their rights, they are left to the vagaries of the Employers. They are to bank on their whims of their employer on the matters of employment, retrenchment, termination, dismissal confirmation of job etc. on some occasions, they become puppets to the Employers; and do some things which is suicidal for them. They sometime fight against each other undermining their common interest.
- In most cases we see that our workers have dual subordination. After the working hour, they engage themselves in other occupations to supplement their monthly income. During the hour of Strike, they go to their village. So, they are forced Industrial workers with minimum commitment of Industrial workers’ norms.
- The financial condition of our workers is so poor that they are to sell their labour at the whim of the employer. Being Landless and unprotected by the Labour Law, they are to live a hellish life as the Labour law does not assure them any Job security. In the existing conflicting scenario, the workers are to lead a painful life. Lack of educational qualification leads them to think that it’s their destiny. So, on many occasions our workers are not willing to improve upon their skill.
- Presence of women in our Industrial sector has added to a new dimension. It has definitely empowered our women in general. But, again, it is also helping the Employers as the women are supposed to be weak. So, the employers can easily exploit them.
The dire-some factor of our worker is that they are not aware of Class consciousness. As result, they cannot protect their right and interest like the developed countries. Because of this Class unconsciousness, the handicraft and the textile industries of the Pre- British India failed to over-reach other competitors of the time. Although Karl Marks in his articles named “ Future Result of British Rule in India “ and “ British Rule In India “ contended that the British colonial capitalism would foster the development of Indian capitalism. He further contended that the British rule helped dismantle prevailing rural bondage. But pitifully enough, Indian finest textile industry such as the Maslin Saree got defeated to the British conspiracy. In Poland, the working class is so Class conscious that they led the political movement under the command of les Walesa who by profession is an electrician. Regrettably enough, our Labour movement is headed by non workers; and some politicians who do not represent the working class. That is a reason why our working class has failed to use Trade Union for the betterment of the life.
Workers and Formation of Capital: In his book “The strategy of Economic Planning” Mahbubul Huq rightly says that economic process is a brutal sordid process. The essence of it lies in making the labourer produce more than he is allowed to consume for his immediate needs. The painful side of this chapter is that the heart of the growth problem lies in maximizing the creation of this process.
Definition of worker and the state: The allocated space for workers i.e. .9 square meter clearly shows that how the state considers the workers. If the figure is to be taken with machine, the worker is considered to be machine ; not as a human being . The state has defined the definition of worker in The Employment of Labour (Standing orders) Act, 1965 (VIII of 1965);which got twisted in the Bangladesh Labour Law -2006 as amended in 2013. An interesting thing is that the definition of worker differs in the Act of 43 of 2010 as against the Act of 42 of 2006. This disparity clearly shows that the state plays a discriminatory role to the treatment of the workers. The state and the sate machinery do everything to help the employers to exploit the workers.
Conclusion: The state must come forward to enact a Labour friendly Act to ensure the right of the workers for the betterment of their capital.