Working hour and efficiency of RMG workers

Tawhidul Islam Chanchal

Working hour and skills are seemed as two different topics, but it is very important for us to know that these two topics are related to each other.

At first let’s talk about the definition of working hour; definition of working hour has been written in a variety of ways which we are already aware of.  Since here I am writing about the working hours of garment industry workers so I should mention the definition that is in Bangladesh Labor Act 2006. It is written that , “working hour means the time during which the workers employed are at the disposal of the employer excluding any interval allowed for rest and meals”  when an employee works more than the general working hour is being considered as an overtime work.

What we understand that the skill of a worker is the ability to complete a task with minimum wastage of time by giving maximum effort with a predetermined result.   it can be regarded as efficiency too.  Theory for calculating the efficiency of an operator is; = ((Total Output x SMV for Operation) / Total Working Minutes) x 100. Where Total output means total quality garments have been produced by the operator in a day (can be measured hourly also), SMV means Standard Minute Value (Time required for a qualified, well trained person, working at a normal pace, to perform a specific task) and total working minutes means how many minutes the worker has taken to produce the total output.

Now we know the definitions of the working hour and the efficiency, let’s discuss what instructions are given in Labor law regarding the working hour of a worker. According to Bangladesh Labor Law 2006, “No adult worker shall ordinarily work or be required to work in an establishment for more than 8 (eight) hours in a day; provided that subject to the provisions of section 108, any such worker may work in an establishment up to 10 (ten) hours also in a day”. Additional work hours have mentioned in section 108 and the essence of this is that, a worker cannot work more than 10 hours a day with overtime work. If we look at the code of conduct of the buyers of European Union, UK and USA, the normal working hour and additional hours are allowed in the maximum 10 hours of work per day. Where it is essential to get workers’ permission for the overtime work.

However, there are some exceptions in the mentioned topics; the time when the demand/order of the buyers in Bangladesh’s garment industry is higher, special waiver is being given by the government-appointed authorities, a special waiver to extend the overtime hours till 4 hours means (8+4=12 hours). On the other hand many buyers also give the factory a chance to articulate and implement a remediation plan to improve the working hours. But most buyers do not accept Excess overtime.

If we need to think about ideal working hour, we have to discuss first about the ideal working hour that is recognized in the world. When we think about the balance between work and personal life, we should talk about a theory raised by Robert Owen (a renowned social reformer) in 1810. Where he divided 24 hours of a day into 3 parts; 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours for rest or sleep. On the other hand, if we review the history of Great May Day same claim was made about the working hour. Later this has been recognized worldwide. And according to medical science, standard resting/ sleeping time of an adult human is 7/8 hours in a day.

If we discuss about skill by considering the living standard of us or of a worker in that case a question may arise; when can we work efficiently? The general answer will be; when our mind and body stays healthy. No one will deny that it is necessary to sleep in modest amount if you want to keep the body well. And many things are related to keep the mind healthy i.e; Family, social, social activities, personal, etc. we don’t feel good if a family member is sick or if we cannot spend time with other family members. On the other hand we feel sorry when we don’t get time for some social responsibilities, conventions, some events such as wedding or birthday party etc. For all of these we need time but how we will get that?

Let’s assume, you’re a manager of a garment factory, by analyzing your daily activities we can see that; you wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning then get ready for office and you go to office.   You work at office till 8 or 9 PM and reach home at 10 or 11 PM (Extra travel time because of traffic) and find your children asleep, after taking dinner you go to bed at 1 AM and sleep by 1:30 Am.  The next day again if you have to wake up at 6 then you slept only for 4 hours and 30 minutes!  Is it enough? Now, when you just sleep for four and a half hours, can it be a cause of physical fatigue on next day?  On the other hand, the distance created with the family day after day can be the reason of your depression, isn’t it?

Now, if we think about a woman worker, she wakes up at 5 o’clock then stands in the line for oven, toilet or bath and finishes those by 7 then starts for office. If she works till 9 PM (if we take example of 4 hours overtime) then she will reach home at 10! After reaching home she takes bath and does other household activities till 12! Sleeps at 1 o’clock!   So in the next morning she again wakes at 5 am! In this case, she gets rest for 4 hours only.    When this operator comes to work in your factory, she would be snoozing for the first 1/2 hours, isn’t it? If we consider her target for 2 hours is 220 pieces, she will hardly be able to produce 150 pieces in such circumstance. If your expected target for 10 hours is 1100 pcs (note: most of the factories set their plan for 10 hours where there are some exceptions) so if she somehow manage to achieve the hourly targets of rest 8 hours till she will have to work additional work hours again to fulfill the 70 pieces shortage from the morning. In this case, this extra overtime will bind you to a cycle from while you hardly can get back your control on working hours! Sometime takes one week and sometimes one month! Remember you & I are not working with the machine directly, so if we fall sick, we can do our work anyway! But if a worker, who runs a machine directly, falls sick, then it is inconsequential to get the desired target from her. On the other hand, this worker is not able to give time to her family like us. Maybe her child stays at the village house has come to visit or her parents have come, but she cannot even give them some times! Which has become the cause of her mental dejection? In this case, even her body is good, but the mind will not be at good state, which will have direct impact on the production. Because all the mentioned things will have a direct impact on his/ her skills or ability. On behave of our organization (a UK based management consultancy firm) we have interviewed thousands of workers from 128 factories and knew that most of them don’t want to work more than 2 hours of over times (A sum of 8 hours is general working hour and 2 hours over times means 10 hours in a day). In this case, can we also speak with the workers of our organization? Because we all know that there is an urgent issue to keep extra overtime in control if we dream our factory as target achiever and productive.

Writer :HR Trainer/ Musician/ Freelance Writer, Bangladesh

Email: chanchal@musician.org; chanchal@columnist.com

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